The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has launched its new Investment Plan outlining the investment priorities which will guide almost $800 million of funding over the coming years.

ARENA will broaden its focus to address the challenges facing the energy system as Australia transitions to a low-emission economy.

“As Australia shifts from fossil fuel generation to a low emission energy system with more renewables and more distributed energy resources, we need to make sure energy is secure, reliable and affordable,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said.

The plan, titled Innovating Energy, sets our four new priorities:

  • Delivering a secure and reliable electricity system
  • Accelerating solar PV innovation
  • Improving energy productivity
  • Exporting renewable energy

“We are looking for new ways to adapt our electricity grid to increase productivity, make the grid more flexible and better integrate renewable energy so it can be stored and shared when and where it is needed,” Frischknecht said.

“As part of this focus, we will be looking at a range of flexible capacity technologies and mechanisms from storage to demand response that will allow us to match electricity supply and demand at all times,” he said.

The agency will also look for technologies that control voltage or frequency to make the grid more stable, Frischknecht said, or capture real-time data to detect and respond to power issues.

“We want to demonstrate how renewable energy can add value to the electricity system while also minimising costs and maintaining security and reliability.”

Innovating Energy builds on the success of ARENA’s previous work, which has seen successes such as driving down the cost of large scale solar through 12 new solar farms and the breaking of 14 world solar efficiency records.

Enter the A-Lab

ARENA has also launched A-Lab, a series of innovation and collaboration laboratories bringing together energy players – from start-ups to major grid companies and energy providers – to help develop these projects.

ARENA will also focus specifically on research and development of solar PV.

“Australia has some of the best solar researchers in the world, and we plan to support them so they can continue making solar PV more competitive and affordable,” he said.

ARENA is aiming to substantially reduce the cost of solar PV and expects solar to produce 30% of Australia’s electricity within 20 years.

The agency will also turn its attention to making energy use more productive and aims to help Australia to meet the National Energy Productivity Plan goal to improve energy productivity by 40% by 2030.

“We want to show the benefit of adopting different technologies and approaches – such as energy efficiency, electrification and fuel switching to renewable energy sources,” he said.

Beyond improving Australia’s own energy supply, ARENA will also look to ensure Australia is at the forefront of exporting renewables in the future.

“As the global economy transitions to low emissions energy, Australia will be ideally positioned to export renewable energy as primary energy (for example as hydrogen or ammonia) or embodied in processed raw materials,” he said.

From May 1, all applications for funding will be assessed under the new priorities. Existing submitted applications will be assessed under the former priorities.

To coincide with the new priorities, ARENA has launched a new website.