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Interviewer: Anthony Holt
I'm with Paul Ebert, a Specialist Advisor and Global Technology Lead for New Energy in Advisian.
Paul, thanks for joining us.
Paul, it’s been over a year since we spoke about your thought leadership piece, The New Energy Future, where you discussed a new energy transition. Is that coming true?
The simple answer to that is it is - but it is more complex than that. In that paper we talked about a whole range of technologies that are coming together in time synergistically. We call that the New Energy Future, and they included things like very low priced solar photovoltaic, electricity generation, battery storage technologies, electric vehicles, and in particular the ‘internet of things’ - so particularly around the use and control of data.
One of the most interesting things being part of that, particularly in Australia where I work, is the business models that are emerging from that.
Tell us a little bit about those business models.
So at some point in time technology has to evolve to the point where it operates within a market. What that means is that the commercial side of the technology needs to be resolved, and this is actually proving to be one of the most interesting aspects of the new energy transition.
Let me give you some examples. Battery energy storage is such a different player in the electricity system and, principally of course, up until now you haven’t been able to store electricity or essentially store the product. When you can store the product, essentially warehouse the product, it opens up a whole range of different ways of using electricity.
Unlike a generation plant that produces electricity, energy storage can provide a whole wealth of products into a market, which is often a poor fit into a market because a market was never designed for an asset that has so much flexibility. So those commercial models are very interesting.
Another interesting one is what we call virtual power plants. This is to do with decentralisation of the electricity system. Traditionally, we had large coal and gas fired generators. Nowadays, we’re finding that starting to fragment. We’re starting to get much smaller generators appear, and one of the most obvious is PV panels on people’s roofs.
A lot of very smart thinking is going into if we aggregate those small-scale generators, what we can do in a market such as the national electricity market in Australia? This concept of what we call a virtual power plant has emerged. Essentially it’s a power station, virtually, that’s made up of hundreds, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, small-scale generators and in some cases batteries.
So the business models around them are emerging.
And where do you think this is all headed?
That’s a very good question and the simple answer is that no one knows. And despite having worked in this industry for over two decades, it’s just such an incredible period of change throughout a whole range of energy markets - and it’s not just electricity.
We’re seeing the emergence of things such as green hydrogen. The green hydrogen concept is you produce hydrogen from renewable energy that you can store and transport. This hydrogen in many ways displaces natural gas.
There are other things happening. I think we’re very interested in watching the way electric vehicles track. So you think about the implications of that in an energy system and it’s transformational.
So the new energy transition is alive and well, and it is going to be an interesting ride.
Paul, thanks again for your time.