ATSE welcomes roadmap for renewable energy storage tech to support the net zero transition

29 March 2023

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) welcomes the CSIRO Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap, released today.  

ATSE has previously articulated the importance of a “critical technology mix” for Australia leaning on mature technologies and investing in exploring the viability of emerging low emissions technology, and has called on the Australian Government to prioritise energy storage. ATSE has also advocated for low emissions technologies including batteries to be prioritised within the National Reconstruction Fund. 

This approach is exemplified in the Roadmap, which outlines a portfolio of developing energy storage technologies that will be essential to Australia’s target to meet net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  

Across all scenarios modelled in the Roadmap, Australia must increase our capacity for energy storage across all types: electrochemical (batteries), mechanical (e.g. pumped hydro), chemical (e.g. hydrogen) and thermal. Net zero transition will need support from electricity storage across different timescales, from short 1-4 hour duration storage for households all the way to seasonal hundred-hour scale for suburbs, cities, and industry. Vanadium flow redox batteries – pioneered by Professor Maria Skyllas-Kazacos AM FTSE – are one of many storage technology options featured in the report, with likely commercial applicability for up to 12 hour storage. 

The Roadmap shows how developing renewable energy storage will enable our nation to decarbonise the economy, and provide the technology for electricity access for remote communities and support lower electricity costs. Digital technologies such as those developed by Professor Lachlan Blackhall FTSE to monitor, optimise and control energy storage connected to the grid, can underpin the roll-out of energy storage. 

High-temperature industrial processes such as cement, steel, and mineral processing require innovative technology storage systems to support decarbonisation. Researchers like Professor Veena Sahajwalla FTSE FAA are developing solutions to reduce electricity requirements through creative approaches such as using waste coffee grounds and hydrogen as carbon sources in steel making. These process improvements must be supported by low emissions electricity sources and storage to enable Australian industry to decarbonise. 

The Roadmap also highlights storage and distribution of hydrogen and hydrogen carriers. While the scale will depend on the development of Australia’s hydrogen industry and export demand, hydrogen storage is emerging as a pathway to decarbonising heavy road transport. This will be supported by a distribution network allowing drivers to refuel on established transport routes. 

Crucially, the Roadmap emphasises the need for the R&D that will enable scaling up of energy storage. This includes research in enabling information and communication technologies and material sciences, alongside research into environmental and social impacts and risk management. 

ATSE urges the Australian Government to also invest in skills to enable the delivery of the Roadmap. The Roadmap rightly highlights skills as crucial to all energy storage solutions – and the availability of these skills is a current and growing risk. ATSE agrees that the solution requires both investment in skilling up Australians, as well as attracting skilled immigrants, to deliver the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skilled workforce needed to develop and power energy storage. From kindergarten to career, it is critical to support engagement with STEM to develop curiosity and capability, including specialised tertiary training and lifelong learning to upskill the workforce.