ARENA’s Innovation Energy Summit outlines Australia’s energy future

Electricity market in Australia supported by Tasmanian pumped hydro storage.Australian Renewable Energy Agency funds Tasmanian study.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) hosted a series of talks at its recent ‘Innovating Energy Summit’. The main theme of the summit was ‘Powering Australia’s Future’.

The event took place at Parliament House in front of a 400-strong audience. It featured Clean Energy Council’s chief executive Kane Thornton as a keynote speaker.

The line-up also included ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknekt, Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, and CSIRO Research Scientist Wes Stein.

The aim of the summit was to offer opportunities for policy-makers, clean energy professionals and the public to explore energy ideas for the future.

It also showcased many of ARENA’s funded energy projects. Mr Frischknekt pointed out that the agency has $700 million available to invest in new renewable energy projects.

Australia ‘in the midst of an energy revolution’ 

According to Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, Australia is in the midst of an energy revolution. This means we need to change the ways we produce electricity. Two significant drivers for this are our ageing coal-fired power systems and our commitment to reducing emissions.

Australia's renewable energy future.

Australia’s renewable energy future was discussed at an ARENA forum in Canberra..

He said that as coal stations get older they also become more expensive to run and less reliable. Newer, more cost-effective ways of generating electricity must be found. Australia’s commitment to reducing emissions by 26-28% by 2030 is also helping to increase momentum in the renewable energy sector.

Thornton stated that the lowest-cost energy plants to build in place of coal are wind and solar power. The cost of producing energy through these means is also fast reducing. This is helped along by policy certainty and bipartisan support for the Renewable Energy Target (RET). Commitment to these two factors in turn encourages private investment.

Just over 17% of energy from renewables

Australia has some of the best resources available for producing clean energy, especially large-scale solar according to Thornton. 1.7 million Australian homes have also had rooftop solar panels installed.

Many residents with solar power are also looking at better ways to use and store energy through solar batteries, and some also benefit from sending power to the grid.

Mr Thornton also pointed out that while just over 17% of our energy is from renewables, we still have quite a way to go. He said we have the technology and solutions right now to manage, deliver and secure reliable low-cost energy.

However, an ongoing commitment to long-term policy settings is needed to accelerate the reforms and to fully transition the energy sector.