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Hunt wants Australia to lead world in battery storage

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Environment minister Greg Hunt says he wants Australia to lead the world in battery storage, in the same way as it has done so in rooftop solar.

“Solar and storage together are the future of electricity,” Hunt said during a whirlwind visit to two battery storage trials at new residential communities in Western Australia. “That’s a huge direction in Australia and we are the world’s leading household solar nation.

“Now we want to be number one in the deployment of battery storage. That will take time but this project again puts Australia right at the forefront.”

arena alkimos

Hunt spoke as he visited Alkimos, north of Perth, where the local utilities have combined with developer Lend Lease to install a 1.1MWh battery storage unit to see how that can lower grid costs, help integrate solar and other renewables, and cut costs for consumers.

White Gum Development launch17 copyHe also visited White Gum Valley (picture right) where another new home development will use solar and individual battery storage units – a total of 300kWh – to enable the residents of 80 new apartments to generate their own power, store it and share it, as well as charge shared electric vehicles.

Hunt then announced government support for four other battery storage trials as part of $17 million of R&D grants that will focus on the integration of renewable energy, and rooftop solar in particular. These include Burny Island i Tasmania

This is not the first time that Hunt has enthused about battery storage. Last year he suggested that it was “inevitable” that many people would leave the grid because of the changing economics of the energy system, and the plunging cost of solar and battery storage.

These new developments are all about staying connected to the grid, but finding an avenue that limits grid costs by reducing the network investment. If local communities can manage a large part of their own demand, then they don’t need as big or costly a grid connection.

This opportunity is now dawning on politicians of all stripes, and the utilities, even if it is not yet clear how smoothly this transition will occur, with many still tempted by the cash flows of incumbent businesses and regulators moving at a snail’s pace.

Hunt, though, was adamant that battery storage was the future, particularly for individual households with solar on the rooftops.

“It’s about reducing the costs for the grid, reducing the costs for household and giving people the opportunity to control their own energy use,” Hunt said.

Equally enthusiastic was WA energy minister Mike Nahan, a recent convert to the distributed energy revolution who sees solar and storage as a way that the state can reduce its crippling subsidies that has supported a fossil-fuel based, centralised energy system.

“This is an important advancement in that the world is changing very rapidly,” Nahan said, noting that the ARENA support for the Alkimos trial – a total of $3.3 million out of a total budget of $6.7 million – amounted to a subsidy of $45,000 per household.

“We expect this to come down and we will learn many things,” Nahan said. “Like how to integrate, how to incentivise houses, how to get the tariffs right, so that when battery technology does come down to a lower level, which it is doing now, it becomes mainstream and we can integrate it not only in new dwelling suburbs like this but across old suburbs.”

Indeed, $45,000 sounds like a scary number, but as ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht pointed out, this is a first of its type battery storage installation, and it is over and above the cost of the grid, which in future projects will be downsized in new developments once the performance of this installation is understood.

hunt alkimos battery

Synergy CEO Jason Waters said the savings for consumers would be around 20 per cent from their bills without solar and storage. This saving was being supported by the ARENA grant, but once costs had come down and the added expense of a first-of-its-type installation removed, then those savings should be constant.

Savings are also on offer in White Gum Valley, where residents will generate their own solar, store it, share it and trade with neighbours through peer-to-peer trading, and also use it to power electric vehicles.

Waters says that Synergy has created a special tariff for the Alkimos trial, which involves a storage fee where residents who wish to spill and have their energy stored into the battery pay a small monthly fee.

“For that they earn credits for the power that they spill into the grid, which is offset against their consumption at peak times when their household demand exceeds that of the battery,” Waters said.

“So by our assessment if the residents are mindful of their consumption, use the technology that they have available to them in each of the households here at Alkimos, which is a very high-tech suburb from an energy management perspective, there is real savings available to consumers, potentially as much as twenty per cent on an annual basis.”

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said new developments like Alkimos will likely need a small connection to the grid. “That means lower cost for the people who are buying new lots, less investment in poles and wires and transformers.

“It also means that you could potentially on a peak day when it’s really hot, everybody’s running their air conditioners, it means that you might be able to rely on the energy that’s stored in the battery instead of building more poles and wires and power stations elsewhere.”  

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  • Alan S

    If governments won’t ensure a fair FiT to system owners for their green power then I guess batteries are a good second best.

    • david_fta

      A fair FiT could be just having your meter run backwards ie you’d be getting the same price for exported electricity as they bill you.

      That doesn’t include the cost of sending the person around to read meters and sending you your bill – perhaps that should be loaded into the daily connection fee?

      • Alan S

        Or pay them the increased green power rate and charge a connection fee for use of the network.

      • Mark Roest

        The microgrid could track it, and send a consolidated report to the utility.

      • JeffJL

        Being able to use the grid as a battery for nothing is not a fair price David. What is the current best price for battery storage / kWh? Much higher than the price you pay for electricity.

        Oh and the FiT at <10c/kWh is too low.

  • Durham 52

    There’s definitely an election coming… I live in Mr Hunts electorate and in all of his regular glossy self promotion “news letters” he’s never shown any interest in (to my memory) solar on roofs or battery storage. Next he’ll be ruling out coal ports on the Barrier Reef, Logging the Tarkine rain forest and will declare that “Coal is not the future”.

    • david_fta

      I live in Mr Truss’s electorate and in all of his regular glossy self promotion “news letters” he’s extolled the virtues of our bright and shiny coal-fired future – especially the coal ports on the Barrier Reef.

      I understand they’ve now pre-selected a former policemen.

    • riley222

      I personally don’t know whether Hunt really believes what he’s saying, after the election if the Neocons still have sway it won’t matter.
      If Turnbull is in a weak position, say a hung parliament, then the pressure will be on to bury any push to renewables.
      For those wanting a real renewables push , the outcome needs to be a good clear victory for Turnbull, or a Labor government. Anything in between will allow the budgie smuggler to sabotage any serious movement in this area.

      • Jimbo

        Riley.
        A clear win for Turnbull? with Hunt as minister for the Environment?
        Do you jest?

        • zn

          He’s right. Turnbull is hamstrung by the Nationals with whom he’s had to keep in check to avoid a fractured party in an election year. If he gets a clean win, he can more confidently pursue some real reforms, eg energy, without the spectre he’ll also be turfed by his own side.

  • Mark Roest

    I wonder if $6,090 per kWh is because they didn’t trust a regular installer? It just doesn’t make sense — unless that cost includes all the connections and management systems for all the homes, and all that is a prototype too.

    • Ian f

      The micro grid manager will be the step between the distributor and consumer. They will clip the ticket. The body corporate will set feed in/ out rates with metering by the “internet of things”. This will allow investors to install pv and batteries and get a return on cost from renters. New changes to electricity distribution law allow this to happen. Local Planning Energy is already doing a similar thing with preecisting strata units.

  • phred01

    after paying money to dirty coal thru’ direct action Hunt now wants Australians to bail him out of a failed policy that will deliver higher emmissions

  • Phil

    $45k IS a scary number.

    $30K profit for an on grid solution above and beyond the cost of the grid , that off grid would cost $15k with no grid cost.

    Love it ! Show me the Money ! Pop the Bollinger , book that Europe ski trip . Life is good.

    Is this the new on grid normal ?

  • Jimbo

    The minister for “Coal is Our Future” wants to use the words ‘Innovation’ and ‘solar’ in press releases for the next three months. What a joke.

  • Anthony

    Hm, very interesting. Those guys dont waste their time. That project seems to be good but in long term period it shouldnt be very effective. Lets say, now new technologies are created every day and you can see how every day new companies with new ideas appears. In my mind we will get something better than this project soon. If you look around web you will see how much companies are researching this sphere and you can see a lot of new achievements there. For example, NEUTRINO INC which is created by Holger Thorsten Schubart made new innovative ways for getting energy. For example they are researching neutrino energy which actually seems as biggest energy source and they did sucesfull experiments and was able to get energy from neutrinos.
    So those austrlian guys are really great but i think in long term case their project wouldnt be very effective. But noone knows exactly, so we will see.

    • Phil

      Yes that’s the main reason i chose batteries for my off grid setup with a 7 year lifespan.

      If you purchase batteries at 3 times the price with a longer lifespan there is a longer period where you cant take advantage of the newer and better technology unless you write off a significant amount of your investment .

      You are also coming off a higher capital cost base which has to be funded somehow.

      $45k off a home loan @ 5% is $2250 per annum just for the interest.Many families would not pay that now per annum for 100% of their electricity use. And that’s without any solar panels on the roof. This is mostly due energy efficient appliances giving the same amenity for 10- 50% of the energy draw.

      Like most electron based technology it gets cheaper and faster.Or in the case of battery storage higher charge /draw current , capacity and lifecycles.

      The data about household electricity energy useage is well documented with all those smart meters out there and appliance purchase data.

  • Suburbable

    Our minister for the environment is looking at this purely from a financial position. We can fully expect the world’s best minister to hitch a ride on the solar bandwagon until after the election, then jump off and onto the coal train. Both modes of transportation get him where he is going.

  • Robert Comerford

    This is about as disingenuous as (say) Barnaby Joyce turn up at the opening of a new wind farm in the New England.

  • Chris Marshalk

    If Utilities charge you a service access free to supply electricity to your residential address, could property owners do the same to Utility companies? How do we go about doing this as it seems like a double standard.

  • solarguy

    Just had a quick look at Alkimos. Their talking about each house to have only 1kwp PV, that’s far too little power for a household that likes it’s mod cons. Minimum size should be at least 5kwp, plus a solar water heater. And only 3.6kwh storage per house ain’t too great either.

    • Miles Harding

      So, what ce can safely say is they will learn that this is way too little on both counts.
      The should also learn that WA’s builders build really crap houses when it comes to efficiency.

      I’m condident in both of these.

  • Miles Harding

    “Like solar”…
    He doesn’t seem to be talking about actually making anything that will benefit the local economy, as this could easily be accomplished with 100% imported batteries and equipment.

    Until he starts talking about creating and supporting local manufacturing industry, it’s just more LNP BS and hot air.