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Business envoy

A living laboratory for cutting-edge technologies

Australian Renewable Energy Agency

The world is watching as Australian innovators tackle some of the biggest energy challenges.

Australia’s renewable energy output is growing at a per capita rate ten times faster than the world average, blazing a trail for others to follow.

The scale of the transformation is unprecedented, but not without technical challenges.

To increase the supply of renewable energy and make it more competitive, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has so far supported nearly 550 projects with $1.6 billion in grant funding, unlocking a total investment of almost $6 billion.

These projects are developing vast amounts of energy storage to guarantee a dependable supply of electricity – day and night. Grids designed last century for fossil fuel power stations are being upgraded to cope with the variability of renewables, and charging networks are starting to be rolled out to allow electric vehicles to traverse our large and sparsely populated landscape.

Together with researchers, innovators and private developers, these projects are helping to manage the growth of distributed energy, transforming the network to integrate renewables.

One recently announced project will investigate the future, mapping South Australia’s weather six hours ahead to predict the output of wind and solar plants. Together with detailed forecasts of demand for electricity, Canberra-founded start-up Solcast will provide the data needed to balance an increasingly complex energy market.

The project is the first of its kind, which Solcast says reflects the fact that South Australia’s energy transition is a global pace setter. The company is optimistic they have a head start developing their “nowcasting” system, which in time will be adopted in other parts of the world.

From humble beginnings in a suburban garage, Melbourne concentrated solar start-up, RayGen, has come a long way in ten years. ARENA funding has helped them navigate the journey, scaling a small trial to a larger demonstration, which is a steppingstone to an upcoming 1,000 MW commercial project.

ARENA’s support has allowed RayGen to prove their novel technology, which can now compete with batteries and pumped hydro for a share of the energy storage market.

Beyond the electricity sector, ARENA funding is helping some of Australia’s largest gas users to embrace renewable alternatives. Recently, Pilbara-based Yara Fertilisers received funding to explore the viability of using renewable energy to produce hydrogen, which can then be converted to ammonia to make fertiliser. Yara’s Pilbara site alone accounts for five per cent of the world’s ammonia production, providing a unique opportunity to demonstrate the potential of renewable hydrogen on an industrial scale.

Read about ARENA’s renewable energy projects at arena.gov.au

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