The Clean Energy Council will today launch a groundbreaking new project that will work to ‘future proof’ Australia’s energy system and improve the electricity grid to support the growth of clean energy.

Clean Energy Council Acting Chief Executive Kane Thornton said the organisation was excited to be receiving $500,000 support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to deliver stage one of the project.

The study, ‘Future Proofing in Australia’s Electricity Distribution Industry’, seeks to identify the challenges facing our electricity systems due to the continued growth of renewable energy and will work actively with all parts of the energy sector to overcome these challenges. It will be launched this afternoon at the Clean Energy Week Policy and Finance Conference.

“Australia is making great progress as we transform Australia’s energy sector and continue to build the clean, renewable energy system of the future,” Mr Thornton said.

“But at the same time there are significant economic, regulatory and technical barriers, making it more difficult for newer energy sources to continue to make growing contributions to our power supply.

“Australia has a very sophisticated electricity system, but it was originally designed to connect very large remote kinds of power plants – such as coal in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley – with consumers hundreds of kilometres away.

“Consistent with what is happening across the globe, Australia’s energy system is changing rapidly. We now need it to adapt to accommodate numerous smaller generation sources which are spread out over a wider area, such as solar power and wind farms. This also needs to be adapted with flexible consumption options.

“More than 1.3 million household solar power systems have now been installed in Australia. This situation is rapidly changing consumer expectations about the role that our electricity networks should play in the future. Consumers are more empowered than they have ever been to make informed decisions about their energy use. Our networks need to adapt accordingly and become more flexible to meet these new expectations.

“We have an opportunity with this project to properly consider our options for the future and to work across all parts of the energy industry to drive the best possible outcomes. This is another example of the visionary support from ARENA that is helping to unlock the full potential of renewable energy in Australia,” he said.

Mr Thornton said a cleaner, smarter energy system was needed that would incorporate newer technologies such as storage and would give consumers the freedom to take better control of their energy use.

“This project is essentially helping to map out Australia’s energy future, and that’s obviously pretty exciting to be a part of.” 

The project will be completed over several stages, with a series of reports and stakeholder workshops planned to communicate the key findings. More information is available on the Clean Energy Council website.

Clean Energy Week 2014 is proudly sponsored by Trina Solar and NAB. Held across two venues in Sydney, Clean Energy Week incorporates ATRAA (Australia's largest solar event), a huge trade show, a Policy and Finance Conference, and a professional development day for solar installers.

The program includes prominent local and international experts, politicians, financiers and business leaders. The event runs from 22-25 July 2014.

Please contact Clean Energy Council Media Manager Mark Bretherton on 0413 556 981 for more information or to arrange an interview.