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The answer to the renewable energy problem could be sitting in your garage

You’d have to have been living under the proverbial rock to have missed the fact that the energy debate in Australia has sparked up again. The Federal opposition’s controversial policy shift towards government-owned nuclear power stations has started a vigorous debate between advocates of baseload power provided by nuclear energy, and the continued roll-out of renewable energy and storage systems, and its associated distribution network.

The opposition argues that the renewables roll-out is slow, expensive, and driving up electricity prices. The government, and others, counter that the nuclear option is a recipe for doing nothing about climate change for 20 years that requires an open cheque book approach to building nuclear power stations.

In the midst of this raging debate the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has put forward a third option that’s flown largely under the radar, but which could change the economics of renewable energy, while benefiting households. And it’s a solution that could be sitting in the garage of millions of Australian homes within just a few years – their electric vehicles.

Batteries on wheels

The Institute makes the case that electric vehicles are more than just a means of transport, they’re big batteries on wheels with a massive collective capacity for storing renewable energy and releasing it into homes and the electricity grid at times of need.

It’s worth pointing out that using your car as a big battery doesn’t mean that it becomes less useful as a means of transport, because the average trip for most city dwellers is comfortably less than their vehicle’s maximum range.

Putting all those batteries to work requires the development and roll-out of bidirectional charging technology into homes and businesses. Bidirectional charging means your car doesn’t just take electricity from your solar panels or the grid, it can feed it back into the grid, or your home, as well.

The Institute points out that “of the top five manufacturers of EVs sold in Australia today, all either already include bidirectional charging capabilities in their cars, or have immediate plans to include this as standard in upcoming models.”

Right now, bi-directional charging technology is expensive – around $10,000 – but like everything to do with renewable energy, those prices are expected to fall dramatically to around the $2,000 mark. That $2,000 investment starts making sense when a standard EV home set up can see households selling excess electricity back to the grid “within a reasonable potential range of $1,000-$3,700/year”, according to the Institute.

And the potential benefits don’t just accrue to households and businesses, because the vast storage capacity of millions of EV batteries massively reduces the need for expensive storage elsewhere across the grid.

Grid benefits

Bidirectional charging could play a huge role in the future of a “smart” electricity grid that matches demand for electricity with a rapidly responding supply. It’s the new paradigm for the grid which stands in marked contrast to a “dumb” grid where coal or nuclear power stations do what they do best – putting out baseload power by continually running at full capacity, or near it, all the time, regardless of demand.

For governments, encouraging the roll-out of bid-directional charging could represent a quick, cheap and effective solution to an energy storage problem while reducing the need for building slow, expensive and controversial transmission lines.

And for motorists with EVs on a novated lease it holds the promise of reducing household electricity bills at the same time as it reduces motoring costs. Now there’s a win-win if ever there was one!

Written by
Mark Schneider

Mark is a successful copywriter with over 20 years of professional writing experience.

We welcome him as a guest blogger to Fleettorque.

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