Energy sharing economy could drive renewable transition

An ‘Airbnb’ for energy could revolutionise how we consume and trade energy, and thereby expediting the country’s transition to a low-carbon future, a new report released by RMIT University has found.

The study shows how Australians are eager to shift to clean, off the grid technologies like solar and are also keen to use new technologies to trade and share their excess power.

Households are adopting new energy technologies to help manage their electricity bills, reduce their environmental impact and help stabilise the grid, yet are often presented with overly complicated processes that can discourage them from pursuing opportunities to participate in the energy market.

RMIT’s Dr Larissa Nicholls, lead author of the report, said that people are widely enthusiastic about generating and storing their own energy, but are often hamstrung by the complexity of the market and distrust in the energy sector.

“In the age of the sharing economy, consumers’ relationships with the electricity system are changing,” she said.

“Early adopters of home battery energy storage are already looking to export their spare energy at peak times to help stabilise the grid in extreme weather, but opportunities are very limited and complicated.

“Our research participants, regardless of political or environmental persuasions, were keen to embrace new energy technologies and also want those who can’t afford solar, or aren’t allowed to install it themselves, to benefit.

The research found that households already consider feeding electricity into the grid for collective use as a form of sharing energy with other households – but that they want to be confident their home-generated, clean electricity benefits people who need it, rather than boosting energy company profits.

The research team warns that energy sharing will need to be carefully introduced.

“As has been reported in cities with high uptake of Airbnb and other sharing platforms, there is potential for some people to miss out or be disadvantaged in the sharing economy,” Nicholls said.

“Programs and platforms need to ensure that consumers are the primary beneficiaries, and rules and regulations need to address equity concerns.”

The researchers will be releasing an engagement strategy for the sector later this year.

The Household Research report is here.

More information about the Future Grid Homes is here.

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