Electricity utilities being “Uber’d” by battery storage, energy minister says | RenewEconomy

Electricity utilities being “Uber’d” by battery storage, energy minister says

WA energy minister Mike Nahan says the electricity industry is being “Uber’d” by battery storage, which will fundamentally change the nature of the system.


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.

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  1. Rob G 5 years ago

    What a turnaround for WA. Sometimes you just need a financial case to restore common sense.

  2. Chris Drongers 5 years ago

    A bit more on this and EnergyMadeClean’s expertise in the hybrid power supply arena from five months ago at https://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/emc-to-supply-battery-system-for-large-scale-community-energy-storage-trial-48625 and in the newspaper at https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/wa/a/30108289/alkimos-beach-to-test-battery-storage-of-solar-power/

    I wonder what the discussion in the Ministerial offices between Nahan and his advisors and Western Power/Synergy execs was like in the lead up to the (forced?) decision that batteries would be allowed to access the grid from 1 December?

  3. Alen T 5 years ago

    At what point does it become economical to cycle your battery and feed energy into grid? The current arrangement preventing exports from batteries are well designed to safeguard consumers who are not familiar with the cycle-life expectancy relationship of batteries.

    • Ken Dyer 5 years ago

      The current arrangements are well designed to prevent consumers from making the jump to economical battery technology to protect the poles and wires of the old fossil fuel driven generation.

    • Chris Fraser 5 years ago

      It might be the case of using PV to charge home batteries and run all household loads – and when those are fully satiated only then is the PV is permitted to export. I think I would have no interest in cycling a privately paid-for battery for these crocodiles.

    • Ian 5 years ago

      With the price of batteries still high, no one in their right mind will export their stored energy at current feed in tariffs. One wonders why the networks would even bother with this possibility. In a few years the situation may change and solar with storage may become exceptionally cheap, but this next to free electricity has got to benefit the network , right?

    • Miles Harding 5 years ago

      With EV type lithium Ion batteries, the answer may be ‘Immediately’.

      My observation is that current day EV battery life is dominated by the calendar and not cycling. Even with a small EV battery, such as a Leaf, most consumers would only discharge the battery about 30% per day for 40km of driving. The battery will likely do 5000 or 7000 of these shallow cycles, but still need retirement after 10 years or so, due to other degredation mechanisms.

      The trend is looking to be much larger batteries (40+ kwh), so the daily depth of discharge is likey to be reduced to more like 10-15% in 5 years time and those other issues will determine the life of the battery. Some additional daily cycling will make no difference to this larger battery’s useful life.

      Lead acid obeys a much more linear DOD-lifespan relationship, so the additional discharge cycling will have a more linear effect on the life of that type of battery.

      Using an EV battery as a grid buffer would require additional hardware to permit the battery energy to be exported. A typical grid interactive solar power system will already be capable of feeding back to the grid, making grid export from a household or commercial battery system more a matter of software and integration.

  4. Kevin Brown 5 years ago

    The WA government should also legislate to force the electricity industry to implement Time of Use Feed in Tariffs to incentivise solar households to install battery storage and export to the grid during times of peak load. This would substantially flatten the “duck curve” problem associated with solar PV and reduce the need for investment in peaking plant, poles and wires.

  5. Leigh Ryan 5 years ago

    Pigs will fly before i export my battery storage to the grid to support a price gouging, hidden tax, state owned utility, next hydrogen fuel cells, water and sewerage treatment all of whose technology is by-passing state and privately owned business and utilities, oh and let’s not forget aquaculture (fruit,veg & fish)… yes big markets your in the firing line too… now what else oh yes the space race who say’s i can’t own my own planet.

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