In the race towards a greener future, Australia is gearing up for a remarkable shift in the automotive industry. Experts estimate that by 2030, an impressive 80% of cars sold in the country will be electric vehicles (EVs). However, this surge in electric cars begs the question: Can Australia’s power grid handle the transition, or will significant investment be necessary to meet the increasing demand?
Currently, the National Electricity Market (NEM) in Australia meets the country’s net energy demand, amounting to approximately 61% of the annual net electricity capacity. This figure may seem reassuring, but the landscape is set to change dramatically over the next decade. With the projected share of electric vehicles reaching 80% of new car sales by 2030, the demand for electricity is expected to surge.
Modelling conducted by Transgrid paints a vivid picture of the impending challenge. In the current trend scenario, NEM consumption is predicted to skyrocket by 40% by 2050, largely driven by the electrification of vehicles. This would add a substantial annual demand of 48 TWh (terawatt hours) to Australia’s electricity grids.
Industry and consumer groups are expressing genuine concerns that the existing infrastructure might not suffice. A primary focus of research revolves around the issue of EV charging. Charging an average EV consumes a considerable amount of electricity, approximately 6-8 kWh (kilowatt hours) for a standard 40-kilometer trip, equivalent to the daily energy needs of a small household. The limited scope of Australia’s public charging infrastructure raises apprehensions, leading to the expectation that most EV owners will rely on home charging.
Estimates from the Reliable Affordable Clean Energy for 2030 Cooperative Research Centre (RACE for 2030 CRC) offer some hope. They suggest that if EV owners charge their vehicles at different times during the day, the electricity grids should be able to cope with a mere 3-4% increase in daily demand. However, if charging patterns align with the current peak demand time of 6 pm-7 pm, demand could double, posing significant challenges to the energy grids.
The consequences of a grid overload could be severe, as highlighted by University of Melbourne Associate Professor of Engineering Marcus Brazil. Potential issues include voltage drops, phase imbalances, and a notable loss of efficiency in the networks, which could lead to network failures and shorten the lifespan of critical assets like distribution transformers and utility lines.
To future-proof Australia’s energy grids, experts emphasize the need for substantial investment in charging infrastructure. Nathaniel Galindo, General Manager, Operations and Engineering – Microgrid Power, at The Green Guys Group, stresses the importance of integrating systems control, regulation, and vehicle-to-grid integration (V2G) into charging infrastructure.
Galindo emphasizes the importance of developing electrical charging infrastructure with investment in 7kW and fast charging stations, along with creating a regulatory framework. Moreover, V2G technology would enable EVs to communicate with the electricity grid, optimizing energy efficiency and supporting grid stability.
To meet the growing demand, Australia must ramp up its charging infrastructure. Currently, the country only has 450 public fast chargers and 2530 standard chargers. However, projections from RACE for 2030 indicate a need for widespread charging availability, including one charger at every home with an EV, in multi-unit dwellings, workplaces, and an additional 15,000 public fast chargers by 2030.
By implementing Distributed Energy Resource Orchestration plans, Australia can accelerate EV adoption while reducing the strain on the grid, promoting the use of renewables, enhancing grid stability, and optimizing infrastructure costs. Ultimately, this strategy will secure a sustainable future for EVs in the country.