Not everyone is buying into the Tesla-driven hype about energy storage. At least not Mike Swanston.
The former customer relations executive with Queensland distribution business Energex told the Australian Solar and Energy Storage conference in Melbourne on Wednesday that the new wave of battery technology – including Tesla’s Powerwall – were still in the “Bunnings” category: “I love that, I just wish I had a reason to use it.”
Beyond those people making “emotional investments,” Swanston says, it’s still not clear to the average solar consumer, or those without solar, why they would want to take the leap and invest in energy storage.
Particularly, he added, while Australia’s energy market was stuck in the “chaos stage” of its low-carbon transformation, and not looking like coming out of it any time soon.
“The renewables industry is a tremendous industry,” Swanston told an industry-heavy audience at Melbourne’s Exhibition Centre, “but by crikey it needs some direction.”
“We need to work out what, exactly, the problem is; what does success look like? Who will lead a whole of industry response? …But as long as you’ve got 10 different views on that, you’ll never get out of the chaos stage.”
Adding to the chaos, he says, is resistance from incumbents, rapidly increasing rates of self-consumption, households using an average of 15 per cent less energy, a failing distribution model, and piecemeal regulatory and political responses.
And it’s for all these reasons that renewables are not truly gaining traction in Australia.
One of the biggest problems to solve, Swanston said, was the role of the distributors going forward.
Regulators need to generate something for networks to satisfy the What’s-In-It-For-Me factor, he said.
While low-cost technology allows people to install solar, or solar plus storage, or even go off-grid, distributors will always be able to argue that this leaves those who cannot do this – low-income households, or people who do not have the available roof space – carrying the can, he said.
“These are two very valid arguments, …and this is what we need to have a conversation about.”