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Battery storage may have started mass market take-up in Australia

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One Step Off The Grid

A community-based program to encourage the uptake of solar and battery storage in Australian homes and businesses has been so successful that the promoters believe the battery storage sector may be in the early stages of mass-market uptake.

A bulk-buy campaign led by Suncrowd has attracted thousands of people at roadshows in regional towns in New South Wales in the last few months, and translated into what its organisers believe might already be the largest coordinated community energy project Australia.

So far, five community groups working with the program have attracted 3,500 people to events in Newcastle, Wollongong, the Blue Mountains, Shoalhaven, Goulburn and the Southern Highlands, delivering a projected 700kW of solar and 1.5MWh of battery storage.

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Another 500 people turned up at a second meeting in Wollongong on Tuesday night and similar numbers are expected in the Blue Mountains tonight.

Suncrowd’s Chris Cooper says the response has been so strong that it shows that people are clearly ready for the next stage of the energy transition – by adding affordable energy storage and smart energy software to their solar system. It may even signal the start of the early “mass market” uptake of the technology.

Suncrowd describes itself as a social enterprise “creating a movement of Australian households who want to take the power back into their own hands.”

It says its community bulk buy program, which makes solar and batteries easy, accessible and at lower prices – overcomes the complexity and lack of trust that can dog such transactions.

“People want it delivered in a transparent, engaging and easy to understand format,” Cooper says, “and the community sector has a key role in facilitating this if we’re to increase uptake of important new energy technologies”

Incumbent utilities should be worried. Firstly, they have long assumed that the uptake of battery storage would be a slow burn, and wouldn’t take off – apart from a few early adopters – until the “economics make sense.” When the economics do make sense, the big retailers assume that most consumers will go to a recognised name.

But Suncrowd’s Chris Cooper says many consumers aren’t waiting for the numbers to add up, or for the big names to get their act together. In New South Wales, this is being driven by frustration with renewable energy policy and the fact that the “60 cent-ers”, the 140,000 households on the solar bonus scheme, are about to lose their premium tariffs.

Community energy programs are also gaining traction. The “Repower” program that funds solar installations on local businesses has now raised nearly $500,000 for more than 300kW of rooftop solar, including a $140,000 fund raising that was met in less than 48 hours his week.

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In Byron Bay, the community-owned renewable energy retailer Enova is also gaining traction, attracting more than 1,000 customers in its first few months of operation.

And there is growing interest in programs and technology that encourages households to share their solar output with other consumers, particularly those who do not have access to solar. This is despite fierce resistance from fossil fuel incumbents and barriers erected by regulators.

Even more worrying for utilities is that the economics of battery storage are close, very close. Bruce Mountain, from advisory firm CME, says the effective halving of costs in the second version of the Tesla Powerwall has made solar and storage cheaper than grid-supplied electricity in places like South Australia.

In fact, Mountain says the combination of solar and storage is now 25 per cent cheaper than the best retail offer in that state.

Cooper says that is not quite the case in NSW. Yet.  “We are totally open about that – when you are just looking at bill savings, it is now making pure economic sense in certain household situations but not all.

“But what makes it still a rational decision,” he says, “is that many people are motivated by other “intrinsic” values – including energy independence, their support for clean energy, and their dislike of incumbent utilities.”

Suncrowd’s July campaign in Newcastle in partnership with Climate Action Newcastle was Australia’s first bulk-buy for energy storage, and had almost 200 participants adopting 250kW of solar and 660kWh of storage.

Cooper says the whole program has underlined some key highlights:

  • People want batteries: Some 75 per cent of participants have opted for battery storage
  • People want smart energy software: Some 70 per cent of eligible customers have opted to add Reposit Power to their battery system
  • People want Australian made: Some 80 per cent of customers have paid a premium for Australian made and Adelaide based Tindo Solar panels over a Chinese module (the normal ratio of solar modules in Australia is 80 per cent Chinese made, although many consumers are under the impression that they are buying Australian).

Cooper also notes that the release of the Tesla Powerwall 2 has eliminated interest in the LG 10kWh battery, and is neck-and-neck with the LG Chem 6.5kWh as the most popular storage offering.

Suncrowd has also developed some tools of its own, such as an online calculator, which assists households determine energy independence and bill savings.  Since June, their programs have generated $50,000 income for community non-profit partners who assist in delivering the programs across NSW.

This article was based on a story originally published on RE sister site One Step Off The Grid. To sign up for the weekly newsletter, click here.  

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  • john

    I have looked at using battery very seriously for a commercial application.
    My findings.
    First of all with say the PowerWall 2 a degradation over 10 years to 70%.
    Looking at a Redflow which has 80% round trip efficiency and needs a refit after 10 years it seems yes using the Redflow redox battery will actually come out in front because the cost to do the refit ie. replace the fluid will be much cheaper than buying new LIP or LI batteries.

    Mind it does not matter which way you go a commercial large user of power will be in front especially if they use most power after 1700.

  • Rob G

    You know it’s happening quickly, when you hear the panic in Frydenberg’s angry answer in Question Time today. All the old fear lines are trotted out… the higher SA power cost etc, the “Stupid” Labor government ambitions… blah…blah…blah.
    Batteries will make all of those arguments irrelevant. Furthermore, like ACT; once the renewables have been built up the future costs will be much lower than than those that rely on a constant supply of fuel (coal, gas), There is an case to be made that those states with big renewable build up may have the cheapest power in the near future.

    • Chris Fraser

      They challenged Holden, Ford and Toyota to leave Australia – and behold, they did ! I can only wonder if the Coalition got their anticipated warm fuzzy feeling out of that.Now they refuse further assistance to small scale solar and storage and challenge homeowners to leave the grid. Clearly, this has not been thought through.

  • Carl Raymond S

    This may not make sense to some right now, but it will. The AI revolution is coming, and it’s going to cause massive structural changes – ‘retrenchments’ in plain-speak. Machines will drive vehicles, put the subtitles on programs in any language, prepare and cook food – both fast and upmarket, spot the cancer cells under the microscope, analyse the news to buy and sell shares and many other tasks that keep humans employed.

    What do people do when now is rosy but the future uncertain? They batten the hatches, put on solar + batteries, trim down the cost of living so they can ride it out.

    If sceptical, take a look at the stock price of Nvidia (google ‘Nvidia stock’), the first company with an AI supercomputer for the cost of a laptop. The upwards movement represents the growing realisation that AI is a real and happening thing.

    • Kenshō

      Your mind is spiralling out of control. Like when Musk wanted to go to Mars. Your mind is emotionally invested in a particular version of a utopia. This is a confession of a seeking mind and a seeking mind is an unstable and dissatisfied mind. Just relax. There is already a peace inside you if you let yourself feel a deeper relationship with people and nature. A relationship more profound than any extrapolations of the present.

      • Carl Raymond S

        Thanks Kensho. There’s a frequent commenter ‘NakedChimp’ whom I sure you have come across. I dismissed him as a loon, as you do I, then ultimately realised he was right all along. That’s cosmic justice.

        • Kenshō

          I’m not arguing against your version of future existence on earth. I’m suggesting its important to be as committed to the present as the future, otherwise it is merely living in an idea of the future, rather than the present.

        • Kenshō

          Ok I’ll buy into the discussion since it’s an interesting one to one extent or another. What if all this technology happens as said, though it’s very unevenly distributed along the same lines as the current economies in Australia and America? People might run amok. The other issue is with some of our best minds focused upon technology for human beings, will there be enough altruistic people to care about nature, biodiversity, all the trees, plants, creatures, plankton etc? BTW my fellow housemate here has a PhD in how plankton is effected by global warming… Everything else eats plankton eventually, well everything in the ocean I get the impression…

          • suthnsun

            I agree with Carl R. I can`t see “ out of control“. Formulating and psychologically adjusting to reasonable projections of future developments is an important and subtle skill , in short supply, unfortunately.

          • Kenshō

            Those projections can’t be made with any accuracy by human beings primarily concerned with technology.

          • suthnsun

            Carl may be concerned about technology? (rather than with) I don`t know. Degree of `accuracy` is not so important I think. Engaging with the type or class of outcomes is. Presently we have a `knot` of social arrangements which cannot deal with and will be thrown into disarray by the class of outcomes Carl is depicting.

          • Carl Raymond S

            The assumption that AI is coming is a good place to start. It saves wasting time debating if it’s good or bad. AI does chores 24/7/365 without wage, lunch break or complaint. There’s no way to stop that entering the workplace, even if we conclude it’s bad. There are also plenty of arguments for AI being morally right, such as affordable taxi rides for the elderly.

            Where we might be able to make a difference is in applying this unstoppable force in the right direction.

            RE is fighting fossil fuels. It’s not easy for RE, with oil/coal having such high energy density. Amazingly, RE is gaining the upper hand thanks to Swanson’s law. What is AI then but the next iteration of Swanson’s law?

            The developers of AI systems are not short of natural intelligence. They are the sort of people who understand that oceans without plankton leads quickly to Earth without people.

            These developers will be in great demand, have many job offers and earn high salaries. My plea to these people is this: Accept the job offer from the company which fights pollution. Work for Tesla rather than Exxon, even if the salary is less. Then we will all sleep better.

      • Ian

        Kenshō,there are many possible futures, many versions of past events and numerous understandings of the present. Carl’s predictions of the future are indeed interesting, if not worryingly pessimistic. When planning for the future you are wise to look at the worse case scenarios and adjust your present actions accordingly. Not much good turning inwards looking for inner peace when wolves are at the door. That is one of the problems with the drug marijuana it gives the chronic user a false sense of peace,wellbeing and personal empowerment whilst their lives are falling apart around them. This energy transition is so interesting as it has elements of future danger and disaster, it has solutions which may or may not be adequate and it has characters that fight incessantly to improve the situation and others that fight equally as hard to avoid change. There is intrigue, greed,deception . There’s the fight of the underdog against the established order.

        As a person who enjoys the individualism, independence, and freedom offered by the open road and the personally owned motor vehicle and enjoys the security and privacy of the suburban house, I obviously have a huge interest in this to continue but without the nasty FF carbon emissions. My favourites are solar energy, Personally owned EV and numerous wind turbines for more public energy purposes.

        You often talk in esoteric riddles, but for us lame-duck armchair energy experts what is your future Energy or otherwise Utopia? If you fancy answering please try be concrete in your expression otherwise your words of wisdom will fall on very deaf ears.

        • Kenshō

          Even though I have academic training I can’t describe what I feel in meditation and meditation isn’t the only path. I can only say for me meditation is my only real interest and passion. My personal life goals are impossible to achieve without meditation and ditto what I’ve already achieved. I lived almost 17 years without drugs for hiv and I’m currently the only person in this country on what is basically a single drug regimen. It’s been a 24 year journey and more lately going on and off those drugs, in an effort to be strong enough to survive without them and I’ve so far failed a few times in the last years. My degrees are all post diagnosis, after overseas service as a soldier and my ambition is not technical or academic. It’s the ability of a human being to generate health from one’s inner awareness and health regimen. Technology can’t solve my challenges though I regard technology favourably. Drugs always have side effects and I like the challenge of self effort and discipline of submitting to what brings about awareness and health. It’s an unusual life and not one I would have chosen though now I’m on it I’m grateful. e.g. my professor at UQ gave me nearly a perfect GPA probably because I studied like my life depended on it. Nothing else can help me nor would I desire it. If there were a medical cure I would not take it.

        • Kenshō

          It is up to you to be comfortable existing in a multidisciplinary context. You have assumptions about the range of qualifications suiting this field, when in fact this field is one of many for people interested in nature, human awareness and how society is evolving. Technology is not the driver. Human beings and nature’s processes are.

          • Ian

            Hey, I saw the movie ‘ Dr Strange ‘ too. But, thanks for your reply.

          • Kenshō

            I’ve had enough of your superficiality.
            # There are not “many possible futures”, there are only many people such as yourself stuck in their mind,
            # There are not “numerous understandings of the present”, and “Presence” again there are only many people such as yourself stuck in their mind,
            # “Carl’s predictions of the future” are deluded, as it is simply an extrapolation of his technical mind, which you have an affinity, and takes far few contexts of experience into account,
            # “Not much good turning inwards” means you are afraid of turning inwards, and have a superficial oriented life, not primarily addressing your personal awareness, before taking action. It’s only aware human beings who genuinely lead and transform anything,
            # You either have personal experience of the drug marijuana or a loved one stuck in it, or the concern wouldn’t have emerged in your awareness,
            # A reference to “sense of peace,wellbeing and personal empowerment” means you are vaguely aware there is something upon the cusp of your awareness, that you are called to do, so get to it,
            # You have a polarity between inner awareness and “lives are falling apart around them” and fear you can’t hold the two together and fail miserably understanding how this can be done. You fail to understand how a sense of personal awareness and empowerment can be carried around permanently while existing in the real world. You goose, I ran a marathon a few years ago in 3 hours and 50 minutes, that’s meditation, focus and personal empowerment. There is no division between awareness and action, just you in your mind, you armchair tech head,
            # Your reference to “This energy transition is so interesting” needs to be reframed it’s human beings and their transition which is so interesting,
            # Your reference to “it has solutions which may or may not be adequate and it has characters that fight incessantly to improve the situation and others that fight equally as hard to avoid change”, refers to you, place the word “you” at the beginning instead of the word “it” and this will help you reclaim your projection and observe a tension in you. Your in a fight,
            # Your reference to “intrigue, greed,deception” means you are intrigued, have greed and deception. I’m merely responding to people such as yourself who are largely or completely unaware of the subjectivity of their own mind, so stuck in it,
            # This fight here the “fight of the underdog against the established order” will be harder for you to observe though it definitely exists in you and most people. There is something in the foreground in you and something else trying to get into the foreground. Based upon how unaware you are of the contents of your mind, this other facet of your awareness will be slow to emerge…

            I really don’t feel like moving on any further. You are riddled with unawareness of the contents of your mind and splash it around like you think it is objective reality. You are like a baby in a forest who thinks it understands.

          • Kenshō

            With this marijuana issue, it is you isn’t it? I’ve worked with so many different types of people, I know exactly which types of character gravitate to what drug of choice and what need they are unconsciously fulfilling. With marijuana, it is exactly those people who are stuck in a monotonous thought stream, who long to be free of it.

          • Kenshō

            I haven’t seen the movie, though I’ve seen the short. In this movie, the makers suppose human development will lead to awesome powers to bend buildings and so on. There is a confusion that arrises at a certain level of awareness.
            There is a fulcrum in awareness where “projection” is noticed. Projection is where the observer begins to notice allot of the thought stream appears occurring on a mirror. When this awakening is consolidated in some measure, for a time the observer is transfixed, shocked and doesn’t know what to do with the newfound insight. Additionally, the observer slowly notices that if these projections are cleared, the mind becomes more focused and powerful. Unfortunately some people then extrapolate on the insight, supposing that since internal and external reality is intimately related, that if they continue the process to collapse all their projections, they may then have the power to effect external reality and movies like Dr Strange occur, seemingly to encourage us all, with a kind of wishful thinking.
            What is actually going on with the phenomena of “projection” is the mirror merely acts as a kind of resonance with emotions, feelings, seen characteristics, identified patterns. Resonance doesn’t mean the recognition is exact, simply this other human being is empathised with in some capacity. It is like two tuning forks. Skilled counsellors use this phenomenon to saturate their own observer with what is seen, by using heightened concentration and attention, to increase the empathy and reflect back the phenomena to the other.
            As this fulcrum in awareness is mastered, all that happens is the observer becomes more empathic and the mirror of deceptive projection is replaced with better recognition to seperate what is internal from what is external. The mind becomes sharper, more relaxed, at peace and much more powerfully focused, to the point a new faculty of awareness emerges in the observers awareness. On the whole, this is merely the observer recognising more deeply its own nature, although enhanced ability for health results, including sometimes, dissolving physical maladies that were related to disharmonious emotion/thought content. Some counsellors can work this process to an amazing degree with others emotions, some massage therapists and body psychotherapists can do this with the physical body by releasing tight muscle groups held in place by psychological tension. It all requires the other persons consent and cooperation.
            Dr Strange is a misperception of where a fundamental process of “projection”, resonance and empathy, “transference” and “counter-transference” leads.

    • MaxG

      AI is not coming — it is here; like many things people do not realise it.
      Unemployment has been on the rise for years (except the numbers are adjusted)…salaries/wages across the board have been stagnant or gone backwards for more than a decade. Neither party can create these jobs, certainly not with removing minimum wages, etc. or digging up coal… while other countries think about a base salary for everyone… and others to renege on “free trade”…
      AI will lead to greater robotisation; e.g. look at Musk’s factory, or the Chines super-factories for PV modules…
      My point: mainstream and the pollies have not even grasped the concept of ‘technological unemployment’, leading to economical mismatch, undermining our social contract and ultimately hurting both, rich and poor… not just the first waves of unemployment… and finally on AI: a machine (such as our brain) cannot predict (and thus cannot control) a machine of greater algorithmic complexity. Interesting times ahead 🙂

  • DJR96

    I just want to emphasise the role these ‘group purchasing’ outfits have in the market. They put the effort into selecting and negotiating better pricing on equipment to make it easier for consumers to buy into and more realistic prices. Whereas if the average consumer goes directly to many of the retailers, they’ll be taken for a ride, and ripped off. Little wonder there is both distrust and slow uptake in the market.

    • Adam Smith

      Maybe, but from the photos on the website it looks like they did the Enphase and LG batteries, so jumped in before the Powerwall2 for an inferior system at a higher price. I would be cautious about being in the herd, where it looks like emotion and going along, to get the deal is the focus. Most consumers who will be spending $20k to $30k or even more, on a 20+ year horizon will research and drive a hard bargain before they part with the hard earned. Either that or they are well heeled and are like the Prius buyers, who just want to be seen as green. I can wait before I jump in, with a reasonable belief that I will be buying my storage system for exactly the tech spec I want and for a price as good or better than what these guys are selling.

      • DJR96

        Yep. And that is just the point.
        Do your research and shop around to get the best deal for you.