Home battery storage to ‘revolutionise’ solar industry in Australia: Climate Council report

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Michael McGarvie carbon-gel battery system at his home in Eaglemont.
PHOTO Michael McGarvie and his wife installed a carbon-gel battery system at their home in Melbourne’s east this year.
Coupling solar panels with home battery storage could be the cheapest way to get electricity within three years, according to a report by the Climate Council.

The environmental not-for-profit found battery storage would “revolutionise” the way Australians accessed electricity, allowing homes to become more independent of the traditional grid.

Report’s key findings:
By 2018, going “off-grid” could be cost competitive with traditional grid
Coupling solar panels with home battery storage could be cheapest option
Half of all Australian households tipped to adopt solar
Switch to solar expected to accelerate as battery cost drops
With battery storage capacity expected to grow 50-fold within a decade, the report found going off-grid could be cost-competitive with staying connected as early as 2018.

As feed-in tariffs are phased out and grid electricity becomes more expensive, Australia could be the number one market for home battery storage by the same year, the report found.

“Anyone who has PV [photovoltaic cells] on their roof knows they’re paid a fraction – maybe a tenth – of what it costs them to buy power off the grid,” the Climate Council’s Andrew Stock said.

“If they have a tool, a battery, that can allow them to store the surplus power during the day and use it at night, it means they’re going to get greater control than they already have over their power bill.”

In April, US-based technology and automotive company Tesla unveiled Powerwall, a cheap lithium ion battery, soon to be churned out on a massive scale in a giant factory being built in Nevada.

The battery is estimated, with add-ons, to cost about $5,500.

By 2020, the factory is expected to produce 35 gigawatt hours (gWh) of lithium-ion battery storage each year, more than the entire worldwide production of the batteries in 2013.

Tesla, along with another of the world’s biggest home battery manufacturers, EnPhase, has announced Australia will be its first market.

Half of all households to adopt solar: report
The Climate Council also found half of all households were predicted to adopt solar systems with battery storage, with the market potentially growing to $24 billion.

Home battery storage
PHOTO Michael McGarvie’s carbon-gel battery system at his home in Eaglemont.

Mr Stock said the technology would be disruptive to existing network operators, and some companies were already altering the way they priced power to discourage solar and battery combinations.

“This is perverse, because battery systems, coupled with PV, can actually help networks get much better use out of their assets by smoothing out the demand on the grid,” he said.

“That should mean that network companies don’t need to invest anywhere near as much at adding capacity in the future, and they get better use out of the existing capacity.”

In May, AGL, which owns Victoria’s biggest brown coal generator, Loy Yang, announced it would market its own battery.

It has also begun offering customers solar panels without upfront fees.

“It’s really important that the traditional players in the industry see this as an opportunity instead of a threat, because if they look at this as an opportunity they’ll be thinking ‘how do they leverage this technology into their businesses?'” Mr Stock said.

“If they see it only as a threat, that will put back Australia [from] potentially being a leader in the uptake for up to a decade, and I’m not sure we as a country these days can afford to put ourselves in a position where we’re a laggard, when we could be a leader.”

Battery providing ‘zero dollar’ power bills
Michael McGarvie and his wife Maria installed a 16-bank, 14.4 kilowatt hour (kWh) carbon-gel battery system at their home at Eaglemont, in Melbourne’s east, in April.

After an energy-intensive winter, he said his house has been completely self-sufficient so far this October, meaning he owed nothing to his electricity provider after fixed costs.

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