Our electricity grid was designed for transmitting electricity from huge generators across the country. Its design is not optimal for transmitting electricity from the distant extremes of the grid back to cities. It will take some time to re-develop the grid to transmit electricity from remote solar and wind farms to where the greatest demand is. The grid also needs to become more intelligent so that it can adapt to where the energy is coming from, which can be variable.
Furthermore, up to 10% of generated electricity can be lost in transmission.
For these reasons and others, I was very pleased with the Australian Labor Party’s election promise to spend $1 billion to equip thousands of public schools with solar panels. Schools are at the centre of communities and so close to demand.
The schools should also be equipped with batteries to store energy and to deliver it at peak times – in the early evening, when schools are mostly empty and households are ramping up demand for heating or cooling, and lighting. They could also deliver excess electricity during weekends.
Other properties which would also be important generators are suburban railway stations. Many have large roof areas and the stations are distributed across suburbs and regional towns.
And what about solar panels between the tracks? There are thousands of kilometres of track in Sydney and Melbourne, with the potential to generate huge amounts of electricity in the suburbs.
With all of this extra generation and storage capacity, we could progressively retire some ancient coal fired power stations.