South Australia’s Liberal government is looking to go where its federal counterparts fear to tread, and will shortly unveil an electric vehicle strategy designed to lower transport emissions and solve some of the key challenges of its high renewables grid.

State energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan indicated in a speech late last week that electric vehicles would be a major focus of government policy in 2019, as it sought to create a more flexible grid to embrace the growing share of wind and solar power.

Van Holst Pellekaan told the audience, as we reported in RenewEconomy, that the state expected to reach “net” 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030, with much of the excess wind and solar to be exported to neighbouring state grids.

He also flagged that this would not simply mean a switch from fossil fuels to wind, solar and various forms of storage, but that it would also change the way the grid was operated. It needed to be able to deal with high levels of wind and solar, low levels of net demand, and two-way distribution networks.

“We need to rapidly accelerate to a smarter grid,” van Holst Pellekaan said.

“We’re no longer in a world where there is a baseload of demand with a predictable daily peak. We’re now in a world where you must forecast both supply and demand, and then dispatch or constrain one or the other or both to balance the system.”

“A new world of peaks and troughs of both supply and demand. That requires demand to be much smarter and more flexible, and new loads such as batteries and electric cars to soak up supply at the right times.

“That’s why electric vehicles will be another major focus area for us this year.”

Of particular interest to the government, and the Australian Energy Market Operator, is South Australia’s growing “duck curve,” where day-time demand is hollowed out by the growth in rooftop solar, and “ramping” is intensified in the early evening as the sun sets and evening demand rises.

South Australia is at the forefront of this transition, because it has more solar per capita than any other major grid, with a penetration rate of more than 30 per cent it sources more than eight per cent of its generation from rooftop solar.

Within a few years, AEMO predicts, there will be times, particularly on mild spring days with lots of sunshine, where minimum demand may be reduced to zero on occasions, because of rooftop solar.

Hence the need to get smart about the grid. EVs, like hot water systems that were originally scheduled to heat the water in the middle of the night to avoid the need to shut down coal generators, are some of the most obvious solutions.

In South Australia, however, shifting the hot water load is complex. Putting in an EV strategy, along with controls and incentives to ensure that much of the charging occurs during the day, looms as an obvious solution.

Government insiders said the state was updating recent work on EV policies and has just started new industry consultations to develop its EV strategy.

“There is a strong interest in vehicle-to-grid technologies, and smart charging proposals,” one government source said, adding it was mostly about preparation to deal with the time that “price parity” between EVs and internal combustion engine cars were reached, possibly within four to five years.

“We are looking at how to be ready for it.”

In his speech, van Holst Pellekaan also pointed to a broader strategy for reducing emissions in transport, via electric vehicles from a largely decarbonised grid and through hydrogen technologies.

He said the government would focus on expanding the battery, electronic vehicle and hydrogen value chains.

“By 2030 we will have significantly reduced our carbon risk, reducing our state’s emissions ahead of the rest of the nation,” van Holst Pellekaan said.

“We can then use our clean power to decarbonise transport, the gas network (even if only by 10% initially) and heavy industries. It means green metals, green minerals and green hydrogen.”

Can he be federal minister too, please.

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