CSIRO Roadmap points to big energy storage gap

A new report, supported by ARENA funding, finds renewable energy storage must expand massively and diversify if Australia is to achieve net zero by 2050.

Renewable energy storage must undergo massive growth if Australia is to achieve net zero by 2050.

A new report from the CSIRO and supported by ARENA funding, says between 10 to 14 times more storage could be needed in the coming decades to support the National Electricity Market (NEM).

The Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap forecasts rapidly rising electricity demand across industries and sectors as they electrify.

To help close the gap, the report urges consideration of all forms of energy storage.

CSIRO Energy Director Dr Dietmar Tourbier says the Roadmap is a major step towards pinpointing fit-for-purpose solutions for energy storage.

“For example, batteries may be the best option for local and short duration storage of electricity,” Dr Tourbier said.

“While thermal or heat energy (like steam) might be technology better suited for heat intensive industries,” he said.

Storage shortfall

By 2030, the report says, the NEM will need around six times more power storage than in 2024.

Even the combined 3,700 MW storage committed in short duration storage and pumped hydro, such as Snowy 2.0 in NSW, Kidston in Queensland and Cethana in Tasmania, will cover only a fraction, leaving a shortfall of 11,400 MW.

Customer-owned storage will cover some of that gap, the report says.

However, should that not materialise, the task will fall to utility-scale developers, the report says. But it warns that planning, approvals and investment decisions could delay any such projects.

CSIRO CEO Dr Larry Marshall says the sector must explore new technologies to fill the gap.

“There is no silver bullet for reaching net zero,” Dr Marshall said.

“We need multiple shots from renewables, batteries, hydrogen, thermal storage, pumped hydro, sustainable aviation fuels, and a host of new science-driven technologies.”

What is ARENA doing to support renewable energy storage?

MGA Thermal Energy co-founders Alexander Post and Erich Kisi
MGA Thermal stores energy in blocks packed with chips of a miscible gap alloy

ARENA has supported and continues to support development of all the above, plus more.

Late last year, ARENA announced the recipients of its large scale battery round. Eight projects will collectively receive $176 million to provide 2.0 gigawatts of grid-forming storage.

In October 2022, ARENA conditionally approved $45 million to Hydrostor to build a 200 MW compressed-air technology project in Broken Hill.

And in February of this year, ARENA conditionally committed $65 million to Vast Solar. The company plans to build a first-of-a-kind concentrated solar thermal project in at Port Augusta.

MGA Thermal is developing with ARENA’s help a miscible gap alloy thermal energy storage system. And ARENA has also supported RayGen to develop an innovative thermal storage system using its concentrated solar PV technology.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the Roadmap highlights the critical need to increase the level of energy storage across the system, including thermal storage for industrial processes.

“ARENA has been supporting the development of energy storage for more than a decade,” Mr Miller said.

“We have invested more than $500 million across batteries and other storage technologies,” he said.

“ARENA plays a major role in increasing the options available to meet Australia’s medium- and long-term storage needs by supporting a range of emerging technologies.”

Alongside existing projects, ARENA will soon launch a funding round to support community batteries.