West Australian energy minister Mike Nahan said the electricity industry is in the process of being “Uber’d” by battery storage technology, which would fundamentally change the nature of the system.
Nahan also announced that battery storage installations in the state would be allowed to export back into the WA grid from December 1, reversing what he had described as a major error from the state-owned electricity utilities.
Speaking at a battery storage conference in Perth, Nahan said it was up to authorities to allow technology to challenge “the existing paradigm” of investment.
“In other words, the electricity industry, like the taxi industry, is getting Uber’d,” Nahan said, Business News reported.
“Technology, innovation, entrepreneurship love monopolies because they love to attack them and that’s what’s happening.”
Nahan’s comments follows those earlier this year when he said that solar would become the dominant technology in the WA electricity market, meeting all daytime demand within a decade and pushing out coal-fired generation.
That represents a major turnaround from the former head of the Institute of Public Affairs, who had a skeptical view of renewable energy, as well as climate change.
The transformation of the grid through solar, however, will be put to the test by the ability of the government to allow technologies and new investors to challenge its state-owned utilities.
The first piece of the puzzle would be the introduction from both Synergy (the retailer) and Western Power (the network operator) of “non reference” services that would allow exports from battery storage back to the grid.
The two utilities had been under pressure to move on the issue of battery storage, after earlier attempting to shift the blame to the state regulator for the ruling.
Nahan said in a statement that it has been a “significant inconsistency” that customers were able to export electricity onto the SWIS from residential rooftop solar systems, but not from a battery or electric vehicle storage facilities.
“This arrangement now means eligible customers can install battery storage or EV facilities to complement their solar PV systems and export unused electricity onto the network,” Nahan said.
“This is an important development given the emerging future trends which forecast widespread installation of solar PV, plus storage systems.”
Synergy is to start selling rooftop solar panels to its customers from mid next year – well behind its eastern state rivals – and will follow this up with battery storage by the end of 2016.
Nahan also spoke of the Alkimos Beach housing development, where a 1.1MWh battery storage system is being used in a new housing estate trial to test the integration of solar and storage into the local grid.
Nahan said the trial would study the implications of subdivision-scale battery storage, which along with small-scale storage promised to not only help households but also relieve pressure on the grid during peak demand periods.
“Some day this will be the norm,” Nahan said.
WA Greens energy spokesman Robin Chapple said battery storage is clearly “the way of the future”, and said the party was reviewing its state vision for energy, Energy 2029, to incorporate the technology.
“Battery storage systems are going to completely revolutionise the way that we use energy, offering West Australians the opportunity to simultaneously save money and cut their household emissions,” he said.