I use an average of under 4 kWh/day in my all- electric home with a peak of about 9 kWh – and I could reduce that peak even more by further upgrading my home’s thermal performance.
An electric vehicle typically has a battery of 40 kWh to 100 kWh. Yet the ‘average’ daily distance travelled by an Australian car is less than 40km, requiring about 6 kWh.
So, emerging EV technology, such as that in the new Nissan Leaf, could provide both mobility and home energy for several days.
I could also drive my car to another electricity source, such as a public charger supplied by wind energy or pumped hydro energy storage, to recharge and run my home and car for even longer. The car’s battery could even be used to ‘export’ electricity to other buildings or to the grid.
I must admit to being bemused by the delay in recognising EVs as mobile energy storage systems.
And if an EV had a range extender engine (not the existing complex and heavy plug-in hybrid technology, but a small, lightweight, multi-fuel motor-generator; see for example bit.ly/TE-DMGT), it could use petrol or renewable fuels such as ethanol, methanol, hydrogen or biogas to enhance flexibility and provide backup energy.
Some time ago, I worked out that such a solution could cost-effectively generate up to 700 kWh/ year at lower cost than the annual connection charge for staying connected to the grid.
Maybe there is a potential business model for a truck with a large battery that could travel around, topping up home batteries in winter? This would allow people to go off-grid and save up to $400 annually on connection charges. Such a service could also ‘download’ excess electricity stored in a home battery or EV to other consumers.
I am not suggesting that solutions like these are here now or are the best options. But the reality is that disruptive business models and behind-the-meter solutions are emerging from left field at an accelerating rate.
These options cross traditional boundaries and potentially blindside people who think in terms of incremental change.
Investments in large energy projects that take years to implement (including large energy storage projects) or are protected by slow-moving regulatory systems and policies (often managed by policymakers captured by incumbents or their blinkered vision) are looking increasingly risky.
Change brings risk and opportunity. It can be a wild ride.
Energy network operators who, at present, benefit from generous guaranteed profits based on unrealistic asset valuations should be nervous. Their social licence to operate is fragile. They are lucky that few policy makers understand this or have the courage to call them out— so far.
Alan Pears, AM, is one of Australia’s best- regarded sustainability experts and is a senior industry fellow at RMIT University.. This article was first published as part of his regular column in Renew magazine,