Mr Peter Lusis

WHAT ROLE WOULD SOLAR ENERGY PLAY IN A NET ZERO EMISSIONS WORLD


Keywords: Energy systems planning and optimisation, community-scale energy projects, climate change adaption

Peter Lusis is a 2nd year PhD candidate in Energy Systems Planning at the Monash Faculty of Information Technology. In October 2018, he won a ‘Highly Commended’ Award at an Australian Institute of Energy (AIE) poster competition during the All-Energy conference. And last November, he joined the Monash COP24 delegation to Poland.

Peter has gained experience in developing solar PV projects while working with UNDP and Renewable World. During his first visit to Monash as an exchange student in 2016, he learned about the Monash microgrid project what made him consider undertaking a PhD.“The microgrid project bridges the gap between academic research and industry. My PhD is about designing the most cost-effective solution on how to accommodate more solar PV in residential areas while providing a safe network operation”. Peter’s research looks at ways to coordinate energy use across smart devices, to allow increased uptake of solar photovoltaic energy. “Instead of undertaking expensive network upgrades, we can increase PV hosting capacity through coordinated control of power electronics, so customers can install solar PV systems and facilitate the decarbonisation of electricity grid at minimal additional cost”. It is multi-disciplinary research. “First, you need to dive into electrical engineering and understand what are the network physical and operational limits. Then you bring all this information into an optimisation model, where you try to either minimise energy losses or costs. However, the scale of the problem is often too large to find the solution with off-the-shelf optimisation solvers efficiently. This is where most of my work focuses on and explains why I am at the faculty of IT. Instead of running simulations, I’m applying convex optimisation techniques which allow me to search for the best solution rather than ‘a’ solution. And, finally economics. Whether we talk about the planning or operation of distribution networks, we always need to consider relevant energy policies, electricity tariffs, as well as investment and maintenance costs. Only then, we can be confident that we out model finds the least-cost technologies that will deliver safe grid operation with large amount of solar PV installations.”

COP24 was on opportunity for Monash staff to meet people from other universities, NGOs, and youth-led organizations, and learn best practice on how to infuse climate change into the curriculum. For Peter COP24 was the perfect opportunity to gain more insights on macro level policy planning. “Take Germany for example, where consistent renewable energy targets have resulted in the lowest cost of capital for solar PV projects and the total PV capacity four times larger than that of Australia. Or the UK… how is it even possible that a country with more rainy than sunny days has about the same installed PV capacity as Australia? However, the Momentum for Change Award Monash received showed others that there is a very different, much brighter future possible for renewables and CO2 reduction in Australia. There are many different paths to clean energy production by 2030 and maybe it is not that important which technology dominates. What I am very concerned about is the fact that a few people can hurt Australia’s credibility in science as they dare to neglect the 97% consensus”.

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Peter also has a passion for policy and communication of climate change and energy policy and was motivated by skilled communicators at the COP24. “The main highlight for me was Al Gore’s speech. It requires guts for a politician to stand against some of the most entrenched and wealthy people related to the fossil fuel industry. We have many excellent scientists around the world doing research on climate change, energy, and sustainability. Yet, there is a gap in how we communicate climate change and engage people outside academia and science. It was great to observe Al enchanting the audience with his glamour and charisma. We do need more people like Al Gore who can talk to the masses.”

And, Peter says, simple messages can be powerful and compelling: “If everyone took a meat-free day and a car-free day, and used public transport instead, while eating vegetarian tacos, wouldn’t that reduce our CO2 emissions by roughly 1/7? Isn’t that simple? There are no prerequisites required in doing this. As a PhD student, I may not achieve much today, but this is something I can remind everyone.”