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Australia “battery boom” potential in focus with new Senate Inquiry

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A parliamentary inquiry into the potential for a battery storage “boom” in Australia, both to drive further uptake of distributed renewables and to boost the resilience of the grid, will be conducted after a motion put by the Australian Greens was passed in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon.

The Select Committee Inquiry into Resilience of Electricity Infrastructure in a Warming World was proposed by the Greens in response to the recent extreme weather events and resulting “system black” event in South Australia.

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According to the motion, the Committee – whose chair and deputy chair will be chosen by the Greens and Labor, respectively – will inquire into the role of storage technologies and distributed generation in improving the resilience of electricity networks in the face of increasing extreme weather events like the South Australia storm.

It is expected to recommend measures to be taken by federal, state and local governments to fast-track the rollout of battery storage technologies, to stimulate demand, create jobs complement renewables and drive the reduction in costs through economies of scale.

The Inquiry is also expected to focus on the opportunity for Australia to be a global leader in storage technologies – a potential many global battery developers have long since recognised in Australia’s high electricity prices and world-leading rooftop solar uptake.

“Severe storms have battered the southern states in recent weeks and we’ve seen the supply of energy in South Australia take a hit as a result,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“The relentless march of dangerous global warming means that these sorts of extreme weather events will only become more common in the future.

“Investing in localised energy storage represents a massive opportunity for Australia at this critical stage in the transition to renewable energy sources, but we need to investigate how the government
can help make it happen.

“The government says its most important job is to keep the lights on and it’s becoming increasingly clear that household and business battery storage will play a crucial role in that.

“An Australian ‘Battery Boom’ will bring jobs and increased energy security to families and businesses across the country.

“This inquiry will be focussed on practical action that can be taken by government right now, because talk is cheap and more hot air from blowhard politicians won’t power our country into the future.”

The committee will be established by early February 2017 will be made up of seven senators, two nominated by the the federal government, three nominated by the ALP, and one each nominated by the Greens and independent senators.  

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  • Simon

    Reiterating my comment from an earlier post:

    Australia supplies almost 40% of the global lithium market – and is adding new capacity faster than anywhere else in the world.

    Australia is creating a new value-add industry (who would have thunk it!!!) with at least 2 lithium battery chemical plants – processing lithium from Australian mines – in development in Western Australia.

    A national focus on large scale battery deployment may also be the stimulus for even further value add of our lithium raw materials and the introduction of advanced battery manufacturing in Australia…maybe…

    Everyone is a winner.

    • Ian

      Too right, mate! It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves. No good bemoaning expensive, difficult to come by lithium batteries. We have got to make our own. Lots of them. The battery market is as big as the oil, gas and coal market combined.

      This needs spelling out: we have two choices to decarbonise our civilisation. 1. Become like the Amish and live simple rural lives. 2. Substitute fossil fuels with renewables. Much of our fuel use is for mobile applications ( cars for short) and for times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. We need batteries, batteries , and more batteries. They need to be as common as running shoes and coca cola . The opportunity for manufacturing batteries in this country is huge. As one example, an average EV would require about 50KWH of battery storage, this country registers 1million new cars a year, that is 50 GWH of battery capacity needed just for cars. Roughly two Tesla Gigafactories worth.

      This is what our government should be talking about and organising. – mass manufacture of lithium batteries.

      • Ian

        the idea of building vast manufacturing capacity for lithium batteries is so fundamental and so obvious that we really need to promote and disseminate it loud and clear and far and wide.

        • BarleySinger

          Lithium batteries are a very very toxic technology. The mines are horrible and Lithium is bloody dangerous stuff.

          Lithium batteries (of which there are a number of variations) are not even very good battery technology compared to several other choices. Oh they SOUND cool, but they are less recyclable and a dirtier tech than deep cycle lead acid batteries (which is a sad thing).

          Lithium batteries do not like to be run flat. They die much faster when you do this, but fully discharging the batteries in a battery bank is “the real world”. Lithium batteries just do not cope well unless you keep them up above 60% charge (all the time) and AVOID recharging those last few percent of charge (again and again) – which is another real world thing that is seriously hard to avoid.

          This is why the max charge goes down on them so rapidly over the years. It is why the “Power Wall” has such a crappy warrantee.on the max charge you can expect to be able to store (which plummets after a couple of years)

          Just like the battery in your cell phone (which is Lithium) they die a lot faster if you keep charging up the last piece of battery space, or run them flat.

          There are a number of better battery technologies, but they are all seriously over priced. There are the ‘zinc-bromine flow batteries’ by REDFLOW (wonderful but too expensive). Hell the old Edison Nickel Iron cells are a *WAY* better tech too and the technology is a century old.

          And I want my hemp char based graphine super-capacitors.

    • Geoff

      do you happen to know the name of these lithium ion companies? there is a potential for demand in china as they ramp up their take on EV’s

      • Simon

        Geoff, I presume you are referring to the companies that are operating lithium businesses in Australia. If so, then the 3 mines in production or commissioning in Western Australia are Greenbushes (the world’s single largest supplier of lithium to the market), Mt Marion (first shipment to China expected in the next few weeks) and Mt Catlin ( production set to recommence subject to capacity expansion before the end of the year). There are also a couple of other companies that expect to begin construction of mines during the next twelve months or so.

        Tianqi (50% owners of Greenbushes) have started construction of a lithium chemical plant near Perth this week. Mineral Resources and Neometals (who I work for) have signed an MoU to progress the development of a lithium chemical plant in Kalgoorlie. We expect to make a final decision on that by this time next year. These are first of their kind businesses for Australia and a rare example of value adding of raw materials for Australia.