The global COP21 agreement could be the impetus for investment in solar thermal energy in Australia, given the technology’s potential for energy storage as well as electricity generation.
ARENA general manager of projects Louise Vickery yesterday told the Australian Solar Thermal Research Initiative conference in Melbourne this week the COP21 agreement was a “game-changer” for all renewables, including solar thermal.
“I do think we are getting to a point where you have got increasing levels of intermittent renewables and that starts to bring up questions like, if there was to be a reduction in the supply of energy from other sources, would CST start to have a strong value, because of what it can bring in terms of storage?” she said.
The conference gave those in the solar thermal industry an opportunity to hear from researchers within ASTRI about progress on their projects. On the question of convincing investors to inject capital into solar thermal projects, Ms Vickery said the prospects were much better in the long term than the short term.
In the immediate future, she said declining demand for energy in Australia might be prohibitive to investment in renewables, but in the longer term, global commitment to the COP21 agreement could drive demand for renewables to balance the system.
“That’s the catch 22 for Australia,” she said.
“We have supply greater than demand at the moment, because we’ve had a situation where we’ve had a lot of demand curtailing off, [due to] reduction of the mining boom, the effectiveness to some extent of residential PV, but also the effectiveness of energy efficiency policy in the past and a restructuring of our economy.
“So that’s in terms of right here and now, but then you look out into the future. “What I also see is that with the commitment of the countries to the new COP21 goals, you are going to have this growing demand by governments not only in Australia, but internationally, to increase their penetration of renewables.
“That means you are going to have an even greater demand for technologies that can bring inertia to the system, that can be dispatchable and that can offer storage.”
Ms Vickery said Australia also had two significant opportunities in CST in the future; one for in using heat for mineral processing and another in producing solar fuels for export to countries like Japan and Korea that are looking to renewable generated fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen.