Saul Griffith: the engineer who electrifies everything to solve climate change


Both Griffith and Ong see Australia’s adoption of rooftop solar as proof that a more radical transformation in the energy economy is possible.

Electrified house. Image provided by Saul Griffith

“I think the change has been quite rapid, especially since the cost of the panels themselves have come down significantly, and many places are also considering installing batteries at this time,” Ong says.

“It’s been happening a lot lately, I would say, and that’s a positive sign. It just shows you what the market can do and what the government can do. »

Griffith agrees that regulatory choices in Australia have contributed to solar adoption here.

“We’ve had a more personal experience of the downsides of the climate, and we’ve had a more personal experience of the benefits of electrification, because a third of Australian households have solar power on their roofs which produces electricity less expensive that the network cannot provide,” he said. said.

Electrify the future

For mass electrification to work, Ong warns, Australia will need to embrace technological and policy changes.

“I think while Saul and others look at it from a general perspective – and that’s a good education and a good selling point for the community at large and society – there’s still a lot of behind-the-scenes work from the engineers in terms of the technology aspect, to make sure it’s a solid path forward,” she says.

“We’re basically going from a power-generating model to a disparate model, which means there are issues with feedback, back-in-grid and things like that. So that really needs to be addressed as well and looked at as well.

Griffith is confident, however, that the grid can be upgraded.

“There are huge overheads in the existing network,” he says.

“Distribution transformers only operate at about 30% capacity. The total amount of kilowatts you can supply to a detached house in Australia is 10 to 20. The total average minimum all year round – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – is 3 to 4 kW for an Australian house mean. So you can see that there is a lot of slack in the distribution network. »

That will mean upgrades, he says, but those can be done.

“Yes, there will be need for some upgrades in this distribution system. Yes, we will need more transmission, but largely to connect new and big renewable things. Can we do that in the next decade Absolutely, and it could be a nation-building project,” he says.

In Griffith’s opinion, the end goal is worth it now.

“Around 2024, if you [consumer] can finance the initial cost, it will be cheaper to own and operate all things electric. So there’s a little period now where, if the government subsidized it, we would build capacity, we would train trades to do the job, and then we would be ready to go as fast as possible to achieve our climate goals and saving money for households.


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