Here’s How Australia is Leading the Energy Storage Revolution

by Andrew Meyer
November 11, 2015
Off-The-Grid

Australia is quickly becoming a world leader in solar systems and energy storage like home batteries.

Over the past few years, Australia has seen a boom in home battery sales, as well as solar photovoltaic installations. Over 1.4 million Australian households already have rooftop solar installed, with many more on the way. Wonder who’s spearheading the spread of solar battery storage? The answer may surprise you.

The People Behind Australia’s Renewable Revolution

The Australian Climate Council, an organization that was formed after the country’s Climate Commission was dissolved, is a non-profit organization that exists to provide independent and authoritative climate change information to the Australian public. The Council staff is working hard to spread accurate information about climate change, but the Climate Council itself isn’t the reason for Australia’s massive energy storage growth. The real reason is: Australians themselves.

When former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott abolished the Australian Climate Commission, Australians banded together in the country’s largest ever crowdfunding campaign to relaunch the Climate Commission, now the new independent Climate Council, to guide them into the future of renewable energy storage. When it came down to it, the Australian people were willing to pay out of their own pockets to continue pursuing the growth of renewable energy sources like solar energy. After this unified investment, Australians feel ownership in the Climate Council, and have high expectations for both the consistency and accuracy of information in regards to the state of the earth’s climate, and Australia’s initiatives to install and utilize alternative, clean energy.

Because the country’s citizens are personally invested in clean energy and energy storage research, it’s no surprise that they are dedicating their own resources to solar energy installations and home batteries themselves. As a result, the energy storage industry is booming.

Stationary and Mobile Energy Storage are Taking Off

The Council recently reported that the price of electricity in Australia, like many other areas around the globe, continues to be on the rise. As a result, high prices will likely encourage more and more Australian households to install home batteries for existing or new solar installations. Home batteries enable households with solar panels already installed to store the solar energy generated by the sun’s rays during the day, and use the energy as electricity during the evening hours when they need it the most. Such a benefit is enough to motivate customers to look into installing rooftop solar. After all, energy from the sun is always free… and the price of home batteries continues to fall, especially for Australians.

The growth in solar storage customers has lead to increased competition between suppliers, causing costs home battery costs to fall continuously for Australian customers. Many up-and-coming energy storage and home battery companies are looking to Australia to test new products, as well as launch new pilot programs involving residential solar energy storage. As new, revolutionary solar energy storage products are introduced, interest and installation continues to grow even more, creating a hugely beneficial cycle of new energy storage technology and falling prices for Australia.

Home batteries are not the only competitive market, however. Mobile energy storage, in the form of electric cars, are on their way to being cost-competitive as well. The Council predicts that the retail price of electric cars will be even with gasoline and diesel-powered engines within 20 years. Australia is on its way to becoming a worldwide model for renewable energy use and storage, both mobile and residential.

Grid Dependence vs. Freedom with Home Batteries

Another recent Climate Council claim is that it will cost a similar amount for Australian households to install energy storage than it would to remain fully dependent on the grid by the year 2018. With no additional economic cost to the consumer, barriers preventing Australians from installing home batteries will no longer be mental or financial, but a question of which brand to choose.

The 1.4 million Australian homes who have already have solar installations and home battery storage have reported a payback time as little as three years and two months. Every regional capital of Australia (with the exception of Canberra) has already reached grid parity, or the point in which alternative energy has generated power at a levelized cost of electricity from the grid. Home batteries ensure that Australians can keep control of the cost-effective energy they are producing.

Rebates for Renewables

Some cities in Australia, like Adelaide, are working on offering rebates up to AUS$5000 for energy storage batteries, as well as solar photovoltaics and energy efficiency upgrades. Subsidies like this would significantly reduce the already shrinking payback time for solar and home battery customers. The up-front cost of solar energy storage like home batteries is a barrier for some Australians (as well as others round the world), but subsidies and rebate opportunities are being offered more and more to encourage all households to invest in renewables, regardless of their socioeconomic status. In addition to the irresistible individual benefits, the growth of solar energy storage has a positive impact on the country of Australia as a whole.

Energy storage technology is already changing the lives of Australians, with over a million households already in control of their energy and energy bills. Because of this, many companies are looking to Australia as their first market for new home battery and energy storage products. Competition like this could cut costs even more.

Home Batteries On and Off the Grid

Though Australia has many rural areas that benefit from home batteries operating off the grid, customers in grid-connected areas have been increasingly attracted to energy storage as well. Peak demand charges, or electricity costs that rise during the time of day when customers need energy the most, plague many customers, making battery storage more appealing than ever.

With a home battery, customers can store energy from the grid when costs are low, and use it during peak-demand hours when they would otherwise pay extra fees. Most population centers see a rise in electricity demand around 5:30 pm, and in many instances, the grid struggles to meet the growing customer need. This is when peak-demand charges come in, imposing additional fees on grid-connected electricity users during the evening hours. Households living off the grid, of course, don’t have to worry about these extra charges. Neither do home battery owners, since they can charge up their energy storage systems in the morning and daytime hours, when energy is less expensive, using stored energy during peak-demand hours, avoiding additional fees. In the face of growing electricity bills, many customers see the investment in solar energy storage, like home batteries, as an obvious move.

All Eyes on Australia

Pervasive solar technology and home battery interest have made Australia a country of interest for many energy storage companies. Energy management company Enphase has joined Tesla in earmarking Australia as one of its first markets for the launch of home battery energy storage systems. Again, Australia’s already advanced energy storage market leads to additional advances, making the country attractive to leading home battery companies.

Similarly, Panasonic has also named Australia as an early stage market, and has partnered with an Australian company, Reposit power, to launch a trial program that allows solar panel customers to ‘trade’ electricity. The new scheme, called Grid Credits, could change the way home battery owners view and use their energy. In the future, households storing energy in home batteries, or other energy storage systems, could use excess stored energy as a commodity, trading energy to others who need more. Grid Credits has the possibility of creating a never before seen energy market, led by consumers, instead of by power companies. Australians have already shown that they are ready to take their energy into their own hands.

A People-Led Revolution

Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie, has had the pleasure of watching solar energy storage soar in Australia. “Australians are forging a people-led renewables revolution,” she said, amazed by the public support for renewable energy storage in the country. The reinstatement of the Climate Council was just the beginning for Australia, but the act of crowdfunding a council focused on renewable energy and energy storage initiatives made a very bold statement. The Australian people have spoken, and it’s not only time for their own national leaders to listen, but time for leaders all around the world to perk up their ears as well.

As news of Australia’s successful progress spreads, they’ll be watching to see which nation is next to follow in their footsteps. In the meantime, they’ll be enjoying the benefits of State-of-the-Art energy storage technology.

Australians are forging a people-led renewables revolution.

Amanda McKenzie, Climate Council CEO