The CSIRO has released a roadmap highlighting the research required to support Australia’s transition to a stable, secure and affordable electricity system.

Australia’s national science agency is part of the Global Power System Transformation (G-PST) Consortium that was formed in 2021 with the goal to “dramatically accelerate the transition to low-emission and low-cost, secure and reliable power systems, contributing to less than 50 per cent emission reductions during the next 10 years, with $2 billion of government and donor support for technical, market and workforce solutions that unlock $10 trillion-plus of private sector investment”.

The consortium is led by the US and UK, and is focusing on solving the most pressing challenges to accelerate the decarbonisation of the world’s electricity system. CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) are the consortium’s Australian representatives.

Working in unison, the two agencies have collaborated with Australian and international universities and research institutions to help formulate the roadmap, identifying nine priority areas:

  • Inverter design: Development of capabilities, services, design methodologies and standards for inverter-based resources (IBR) to ensure power system reliability.
  • Stability tools and methods: New tools and methods to ensure reliability, security and stability in power systems, with more IBR and traditional synchronous machines being phased out in the future.
  • Control room of the future: Development of new technologies and approaches for enhanced real-time visibility and analysis in power system operator control rooms.
  • Planning: New planning metrics, methods and tools to capture the characteristics and influence of a changing resource mix.
  • Restoration and “black starting”: Creating new procedures for “black starting” (repowering after a blackout) and restoring a power system with high or 100 per cent IBR penetration.
  • Services: Quantifying the technical service requirements of future power systems to maintain the supply-demand balance at least cost with high penetration of renewables.
  • Architecture: Identifying appropriate future power system architectures for coordinating new technology capability, regulatory approaches, market design and the distribution/transmission interface in a highly distributed, variable renewable energy-based system to support an orderly power system transition.
  • Distributed energy resources (DER): Investigating the challenges and opportunities from high levels of DER to make power system control and operation more effective.
  • DER and stability: Modelling and analysis of DER responses to ensure system operators can maintain power system security under high DER penetration.

CSIRO energy systems research director Dr John Ward says the roadmap could help forge a clear pathway to the integration of low-emissions electricity.

“Across the energy system, we are seeing a significant increase in renewable-generated electricity combined with an increase in electricity requirements in transport, buildings, manufacturing and mining,” he says.

“The cost of renewable energy is no longer the challenge – integrating renewable energy securely and efficiently into our electricity systems, and ensuring we have the right operational tools and capabilities in place is what we need to solve.

“Australia has some of the world’s highest levels of rooftop solar, which means this integration challenge extends throughout our electricity system, from the largest generators through to efficiently integrating distributed energy resources – such as solar and electric vehicles – into our homes and businesses.”

The roadmap targets areas that will ensure ongoing energy security and reliability for Australian consumers, and efficient and effective investment in infrastructure.

“The role of research throughout this transition is vitally important, and Australia has the opportunity to lead the charge,” says Dr Ward.