Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey says that rooftop solar on homes and business premises will soon grow to be the biggest power station, by capacity, in the state.
“Rooftop solar is already the second largest power station in this state – and soon it will be effectively the largest power station in Queensland,” Bailey told the Queensland Energy Storage Conference in Brisbane earlier this week.
Queensland currently has nearly 1.5GW of rooftop solar – 1,044MW on homes and businesses in the south-east corner and Brisbane operating in the Energex network, and 432MW on 115,000 premises in the Ergon network that covers the rest of the state.
That means that within a year – at the current installations rate – the capacity of rooftop solar in Queensland could overtake the largest generator, the 1,650MW Gladstone coal-fired generator.
Bailey says this is a good thing. The Labor government intends to double the amount of rooftop solar to 3,000MW by 2020, as part of its goal to lift the share of renewable energy generation in the state to 50 per cent by 2030.
Bailey said that energy storage would be critical to help networks integrate rooftop solar into their grids, and to help reduce peak demand. In Queensland, the growing peak – much of it from the use of air-conditioners – has caused network prices to surge and accounts for more than half of consumer electricity costs.
“Queensland’s boom in solar PV could be a template for battery storage uptake as battery storage technology costs fall,” he said.
“Battery storage is a game changer. Affordable battery storage technology is getting closer by the day,” Bailey added, although he would not be drawn into any comment on what initiatives, if any, Queensland would implement to encourage battery storage uptake.
Governments in the ACT and South Australia have announced programs to accelerate the uptake of battery storage.
Bailey did, however, announce a $300,000 grant to the state-owned network operator Ergon, to accelerate battery storage adoption and, in particular, to spend $100,000 to fast track the development of battery safety standards.
Australia currently has no standards for lithium-ion batteries for use in households, and there is concern in the industry that “cowboy” operators using cheap imported battery storage devices could create problems.
Queensland is conducting numerous battery storage trials, and Bailey said these were already showing that homes could reduce consumption at times of peak demand, and save money.
He said one trial showed 7/10 participants reduced peak time consumption, while one reported a $200 reduction in their quarterly power bill. “Battery storage has the potential to keep pressure off electricity prices,” Bailey said.
Bailey said that the renewable energy target would help drive development of a low-carbon economy in Queensland. He has appointed a five-person panel to conduct public consultations and develop a plan to meet the 50 per cent target.
The panel – chaired by investment banker Colin Mugglestone and including lawyer Allison Warburton, University Queensland energy expert Professor Paul Meredith, ACIL Allen’s Paul Hyslop and the Climate Council’s Amanda McKenzie – will submit a draft report mid year, before a final report nearer to the end of the year.