Australian senate: Don’t leave us in the slow lane for EV uptake


From pv magazine Australia.

The Australian senate has warned the country could be left behind as the rest of the world embraces electric vehicles because the federal government is not doing enough to boost EV uptake.

A senate report has made 17 recommendations on how Australia could manage the risks of transition from combustion engines.

The recommendations of the senate committee on electric vehicles include a call for a national EV strategy and targets, a 10-year EV manufacturing roadmap, a national EV target for government vehicle fleets, introducing regulations for battery charging infrastructure, more stringent vehicle emissions standards and bringing a Formula-E Championship race to Australia.

Referring to the 19th century English textile workers who fought mechanization, senator Rex Patrick said: “The government must abandon its Luddite approach to Australia’s inevitable transition from ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles to EVs. The world is embracing EVs and we must too. In relation to EVs, it’s not a question of if, it’s simply one of when.”

The report highlights the important role on-site solar and batteries could play in reducing grid demand, and raises questions about additional generating capacity and how EV owners could be incentivised to charge during off-peak periods.

“By 2030–31, AEMO [the Australian Energy Market Operator] estimates that consumers could have as much as 33,136 MW of solar PV and 4,969 MW of battery storage, as well as the battery capacity of their electric vehicles,” the report notes.

Such a volume of distributed energy resources would make it complex for AEMO to manage security of power supply. To address the issue, energy market policymakers have approved the establishment of a national register of small-scale distributed energy resources to give AEMO and distribution network businesses more data to help plan and operate the power system as it transforms.

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Battery manufacturing

The senate’s EV report also underlines a national electric vehicle strategy could fuel Australia’s battery manufacturing industry and stimulate local supply chains. That opportunity has already been recognized by the federal government, which has launched a strategy seeking investment to unlock the nation’s potential for lithium-ion battery manufacturing. The move came following calls for Australia to consider its downstream lithium-ion battery manufacturing capabilities, with mineral reserves covering 90% of the elements required.

The global case for EVs is getting stronger, as they are seen as not only cleaner and cheaper but also as a source of battery storage that could step up the integration of intermittent renewables into grids. Second-life EV batteries also offer business cases for stationary storage.

With the right policy…

While Australia’s EV sales figures are weak – according to the latest available figures from the Electric Vehicle Council, Australians bought just 2,284 such vehicles in 2017 – drivers are reportedly keen to make the switch, with government backing.

The results of a poll released by The Australia Institute this week showed most Australians want state and federal governments to implement policies that would encourage EV adoption. The poll – conducted among a sample of 1,449 respondents – showed 79% support for the government building EV charging infrastructure nationwide; 74% support for rebates to promote the installation of charging stations; and 73% backing for new apartment blocks to be required to have charging stations.

The majority of respondents (76%) also expressed support for governments to use EV fleets and to provide loans for electric vehicles (55%). Some 66% of poll respondents wanted the luxury car tax removed from imported EVs.

“Our research makes it clear that Australians are keen for the government to encourage electric vehicle uptake through a range of policy measures,” said Richie Merzian, climate and energy director at The Australia Institute.

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