Labor leader Bill Shorten is promising a focus on household battery storage and a “neighbourbood” renewables program to underline the party’s pitch that it can deliver a 50 per cent renewable energy share for Australia by 2030 and deliver cheaper electricity prices.
Ahead of a landmark speech on Thursday that will define Labor’s energy policy going in to the upcoming federal election, Shorten promised a $200 million spend on household batteries, and another $100 million on “neighbourhood renewables” that would help renters and low-income families access the benefits of solar power.
It is a key part of the policy package that will offer a potential deal on the National Energy Guarantee, but also looks at reverse auctions and other mechanisms to ensure that Labor reaches its 50 per cent renewable energy target, and its 45 per cent emissions reduction cuts.
Labor says its Household Battery Program will offer a rebate of $2,000 from the cost of batteries to 100,000 households from 2020, the start of a plan aiming for a new national target of one million household battery installations by 2025.
The program – which will also offer low-income loans to help on the battery purchase, presumably through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – follows similar but smaller programs in South Australia, Victoria and other states.
South Australia, which is offering $100 million in rebates and another $100 million in low-interest loans for 40,000 households, now has three international battery companies setting up manufacturing operations in its state.
The federal Labor program will be targeted at households with incomes of less than $180,000 – which seems a generous cut-off point, but presumably reflects the demographic best able to afford a battery even with the rebate. A rebate of $500/kWh will be offered, up to a maximum of 4kWh.
There will also be another $100 million targeted to help renters and low-income households access the benefits of renewables.
This will be achieved through “community energy” hubs and “solar gardens” championed by the likes of community energy retailer Enova, as well as community-based wind farms, energy efficiency measures and other pilot programs.
The focus on storage and low-income and rental is a welcome move, (and predicted by RenewEconomy on Monday) and just a little bit surprising that one of the major poliical parties has finally woken up to the benefits – in both policy and politics – of helping households reduce bills by investing in their own power supply and storage.
The opportunities to make a political case around the benefits of household solar have been emerging since 2012 – see Zero cost solar, will this be Gillard”s election secret weapon. But considering household bills have doubled and solar and storage costs plunged since that time, it now seems like a no-brainer.
“Australians love renewable energy because they know it saves them money and it’s good for the environment. Household solar installation has sky-rocketed from 7,000 homes in 2007 to 1.8 million homes today,” Shorten says. (In fact, the number of homes and small businesses with rooftop solar has now likely pipped two million.)
“Supporting the installation of more household battery systems is the next big step in helping families keep their energy bills lower. When the sun goes down, or when electricity usage is at its peak, consumers can draw on their own stored energy.”
It will also have clear benefits to the grid, as the batteries will help address peak demand, provide important network services and strengthen local networks, particularly in areas with high levels of rooftop solar penetration.
“And it’s good for the environment – cheaper and cleaner electricity for Aussie households will help Australia achieve 50 per cent of power from renewables by 2030,” Shorten says.
Coalition energy minister Angus Taylor was not impressed, comparing the program to the “pink batt” scheme of the Rudd government.
The Labor battery plan says:
The rebate will be complemented by low cost financing through the CEFC will be made available on a demand-driven basis to support the purchase of both household battery and solar systems.
Eligible battery systems must be virtual power plant capable to maximise system-wide benefits.
The rebate is limited to one battery system per home, and will not be available to households that have received subsidies from state schemes.
The program will be reviewed after two years, given projected falls in battery costs and to assess progress towards Labor’s target of one million new battery installations by 2025.
Projects eligible for funding in communities across Australia could include:
• ‘Solar gardens’ and energy storage solutions for renters.
• Low-income energy efficiency (including retrofits of existing social housing stock).
• Solar programs using innovative finance like council rates programs.
• Community wind farms.
• Pilot community solar and storage projects with social housing providers.
• Rates financing for low-income pensioners.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.