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Solar-plus-storage could be on frontline of Australia’s ‘people-led renewable revolution

Climate Council's report leans on a number of other recent works, presenting industry findings to the wider public. Image: Australian Energy Storage Council.
Energy storage is likely to be a near future “game changer” for Australia and could make the country the world leader in solar-plus-storage, a new report claims.  

The Climate Council, a non-profit organisation formed after the dissolution of the country’s Climate Commission, issued 'Powerful Potential: Battery Storage for Renewable Energy and Electric Cars' yesterday.

According to the council, which was crowd-funded back into existence after its abolition by former prime minister Tony Abbott, Australian households are likely to keep installing batteries either for existing solar installations, or new ones, driven by high electricity prices. The commercial opportunity this presents will also lead to increased competition between suppliers, accelerating the fall in costs. The Climate Council also considered the synergistic effect of the EV market on stationary storage prices and vice versa, claiming that electric cars could be cost-competitive with petrol and diesel within 20 years.

Among the headline findings is a claim that it could cost a similar amount to install energy storage in the Australian home as it will be to remain fully dependent on the grid by 2018. The Climate Council also quoted International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) statistics explaining that adding 4kWh of storage to a 5kWh PV system can double on-site self-consumption from 30% to 60%.

Over 1.4 million Australian households already have rooftop PV installed, with system size averaging 4.5kW and payback time is still less than 10 years – the Climate Council quoted a survey which even said the average payback time for 700 households interviewed was as little as three years and two months, with PV already reaching grid parity in every regional capital of the country expect Canberra.

Adding a battery in some parts of the country puts the total system payback time up to between six and 12 years at present, which the Climate Council claims could fall to eight years by 2020 and six years by 2030. The city council of Adelaide is trying to push this process along by offering a rebate of up to AUS$5,000 for energy storage batteries, AUS$5,000 for solar PV, AUS$5,000 for energy efficiency upgrades to apartments, AUS$500 per EV charge controller and AUS$1,000 for LED lighting.

Storage technology “…could be a game changer allowing households to control their energy and energy bills…Already 1.4 million Australian households power their homes with solar.

"Now we have the opportunity to lead the world in household battery storage with major companies choosing Australia as their first market. This kind of competition is likely to cause battery storage costs to fall even more dramatically," Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said.

Mainstream confirmation of storage market attractiveness

The report itself mostly quotes statistics and findings from secondary sources and mostly appears to confirm what many in the renewable energy industry have been saying about Australia for some time.

This summer the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) published a more comprehensive look at the global status of energy storage technologies and economics, relating those international lessons back to Australia and how they might be applied.

ARENA found that the highest value at present for energy storage in the country is behind-the-meter batteries for solar, with in-front-of-the-meter or utility-sited storage of value to the grid but are still difficult to monetise. While off-grid batteries have been fairly common in more remote parts of the country, falling feed-in tariffs (FiTs) for solar and high electricity prices that vary with time of day are making customer sited storage more attractive even in grid-connected areas.

In his regular guest blogs for PV Tech Storage, John Grimes, head of Australian industry groups the Energy Storage Council and its solar counterpart, has written previously of the economic potential for storage, both in off-grid, remote areas and more generally across a number of applications and regions.

Meanwhile, solar microinverter and energy management company Enphase joined Tesla in earmarking Australia as one of the initial markets into which its residential storage battery system will be launched, with Q1 2016 the expected lift-off date for both companies.

Panasonic, Tesla’s collaborator on battery manufacture but also its rival in marketing its own battery storage systems, has also pinpointed interest in Australia’s early stage market and has already launched a trial in which it has partnered with an Australian company, Reposit Power, to allow PV system users to ‘trade’ electricity in a scheme called Grid Credits. Tesla is also involved in the Grid Credits trial.

The research published by the Climate Council uses a variety of statistics from other sources and some of the group’s own research to reinforce an argument that has already been quite well discussed within industry circles, but its publication is also an attempt to send out a message on the expected positive impact of energy storage to the wider Australian public.

"Australians are forging a people-led renewables revolution," McKenzie said.

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