Interview: Dr. Michael Ottaviano, Carnegie Clean Energy

Posted on May 25th, 2017 in News

As Australia’s energy markets are becoming more complex due to battery storage and rooftop solar, diversifying the mix of energy sources is one way to ensure the grid remains resilient. Dr Michael Ottaviano, CEO and Managing Director of Carnegie Clean Energy, discusses the challenges facing the grid, and how power markets can benefit from expanded capabilities and technologies.

Diversification the key to a resilient energy market

Dr Michael Ottaviano has been with Carnegie Energy, a developer of utility-scale solar power, wave energy and battery storage, for ten years. Prior to this, he lived in Germany where he saw the emergence of the country’s solar industry, which made it clear to him that the success of Australia’s renewable industry was inevitable, due to Australia’s superior solar resources.

“Over the past ten years, we’ve seen the business case for renewables mature in Australia, from simply being a threat to power incumbents and dismissed as an unnecessary cost, to one where renewables are finally being seen as a solution to high energy costs and able to be part of a reliable, integrated and sustainable future energy solution,” he says.

“Over that time, Carnegie has emerged as the leading wave energy technology developer globally, and we’ve gone on to become a leader in off grid, solar/battery/diesel microgrid systems through our acquisition of Energy Made Clean. More recently we have also expanded our capability to utility scale solar and on-grid utility-scale battery energy storage systems.”

Energy diversification leads to energy resilience

Dr Ottaviano says energy markets across Australia are currently in a period of disruption and change, and that the way forward is to diversify our energy sources.

“All power markets are, by definition, complex systems consisting of many generation sources, loads and interconnections. Our energy markets are becoming more complex with the advent of distributed rooftop solar PV and the emerging residential battery market,” he says.

“It stands to reason, that a more diverse energy mix, distributed across the network, will lead to a more resilient grid and more choice for consumers.

“The challenge is for the system to emerge in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. The historical approach of centralised planning for a network with centralised power generation is no longer sustainable.”

A focus on innovation

The emergence of utility scale, on-grid energy storage is particularly exciting, says Dr Ottaviano, as it’s a market that didn’t exist six months ago.

“Yet in less than 12 months, we will have between 100MW and 200MW of utility batteries on the National Electricity Market. This is in addition to the residential-scale storage that will see similar growth over the next one to two years.”

Carnegie Clean Energy is at the forefront of Australia’s budding microgrid market, which Dr Ottaviano says is one way of diversifying that is creating successful outcomes.

“The so-called ‘energy trilemma’ – the inability to reconcile energy decarbonisation with cost and reliability – doesn’t exist when you leave the grid,” he says.

“It is possible to have cheaper, cleaner and more reliable power by moving from 100 per cent off grid diesel systems to high renewable energy penetration solar/battery/diesel systems.”

Flexibility is key in any rapidly developing market place, and this is especially true for Australia’s energy markets. Dr Ottaviano believes market rules and planning processes need to be rethought to account not only for today’s energy mix but to anticipate what tomorrow’s technologies will be.

“The ability to make quick decisions and learn from mistakes quickly, is probably the most important capability you can have in such a market.”