Australia's electricity system will need up to $1 trillion of investment by 2050, regardless of whether consumers are providing their own energy or buying it from the grid, according to a new industry report.
Energy Networks Association working with CSIRO to determine energy needs for 10 years
Report does not anticipate energy prices will skyrocket $1,000 difference between those with solar power and those without by 2050
Recommends changes to energy regulation, pricing in 5-10 years
The Energy Networks Association (ENA) is working with the CSIRO to develop a 10-year roadmap for the industry, to help it cope with a rapidly changing market.
"We're expecting to see a lot more of the decision-making being done by customers, and customers deciding what technology they'll install," the association's chief executive John Bradley told AM.
The CSIRO has modelled four different scenarios for Australia's energy market: one where consumers "set and forget" their energy use, the rise of the "prosumer" who is actively involved in sourcing their energy, another where people leave the grid altogether, and finally a market of 100 per cent renewables.
The interim report has predicted that between the four scenarios, $950 billion to just over $1 trillion of investment by the industry and customers will be needed through to 2050 to meet Australia's energy needs.
But the ENA said that does not mean consumers will face higher electricity bills.
"What we see is the cost of that to the community still stays within the level of expenditure of the moment of about 2 to 3 per cent of household incomes," Mr Bradley told AM.
The report also found the cost of solar energy and battery storage is falling faster than anticipated just two years ago.
"We knew that the costs of storage and solar was going to come down, but what we found when we look back at it now, in 2015, solar panels and storage are both 20 per cent lower than we thought they'd be," CSIRO chief economist for energy Paul Graham said.
"The costs of these technologies are changing so quickly, so we predict within the next 10 years storage costs could fall by two-thirds, and solar costs continue to fall by another third again," Mr Bradley said.
Solar uptake may send energy prices skywards for some
The report has warned that increased use of solar energy will come with risks for some consumers.
The CSIRO has forecasted that by 2050, there will be around $1,000 difference between the power bills of those who have rooftop solar panels, and those who do not.
"This is a really tricky problem because on the one hand you might say what we've got to do is get more people on solar and then everyone can benefit from it, but obviously that's difficult for people who don't own their own homes, they might live in apartments or otherwise can't access that technology," Mr Graham said.
The ENA said that was why changes were needed to electricity regulation and pricing in the next 5 to 10 years.
"Demand-based tariffs which reward customers for shifting their consumption off peak, but out into the long term there's also the opportunity to provide new services that reward customers for helping to reduce demand in particular parts of the network," Mr Bradley said.
"They might be participating in a tariff scheme. They might also be using their storage service in the future to help to generate it at just the right time to help reduce peak demand."
The industry has also argued that there will always be a need for a centralised electricity grid, even if more Australians choose to generate and store their own energy.
"The best value they'll get out of their solar is usually by selling excess energy back into the market," Mr Bradley said.
"For those reasons you need to have a grid in the middle which is enabling all the customer choices in that future energy system."
The report estimated that the electricity sector could cut its greenhouse gas emissions by between 29 and 51 per cent by 2030, and under one scenario, up to 99 per cent by 2050.
The interim report is being released today, and the final roadmap is expected to be released at the end of 2016.
ENA Roadmap Summary Interim Program Report