South Australia urged to re-think household battery storage

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Plans for sonnen manufacturing base in South Australia at stake as new state government urged to rethink support for household battery storage.

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The new Liberal state government in South Australia is being urged to rethink its policy on household battery storage, with major investments in the country’s first battery storage manufacturing facility, and the expansion of its only solar module manufacturer, at stake.

The new government led by Steve Marshall was quick out of the blocks after its poll win in March with a vow to discontinue the previous Labor government’s support of a privately-funded scheme to provide solar and storage to low income households.

The government was taken aback from the sharp response to that stance, given that it had proposed its own $100 million grant funded scheme, which is now criticised because it will only support those with the money to pay for the bulk of the storage costs.

Meetings were held between South Australian government officials and representatives of sonnen in Adelaide last week about its proposal to set up the first battery storage manufacturing plant in Australia.

That proposal was part of a Labor announced plan to provide zero interest loans to households to encourage the rollout of battery storage, and to ensure that low-income households have access to the technology.

It is one of three schemes that are now being considered by the state government – its own grant scheme, the low-interest loan scheme, or the Tesla-proposed virtual power plant.

The Tesla proposal was to install, free of charge, 5kW of rooftop solar and a 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall battery storage unit in low-income households, starting with Housing Trust tenants.

The investment would be recouped through payments for the use of the solar and storage, but would still deliver a 30 per cent reduction in bills to those tenants.

Only the initial rollout of 1,100 has been guaranteed support by the new government, because of contracts written before the election campaign, but the remaining program of 48,900 has been left in limbo.

The proposal would seek to add much-needed new competition to the local market because it would be rolled out by a new retailer. So far, it is believed that only a few dozen batteries have been installed.

Another company with an interest in the government’s next move is Tindo Solar, the only solar manufacturer in the country, which was looking to double its production line on the basis of the Tesla and sonnen initiatives, which both required high levels of local supply for the modules.

Local installers interviewed at last week’s Smart Energy conference indicated that decisions on solar installations by local households were being delayed pending the outcome of the government’s deliberations.

This, however, has not flowed through to official data, which show that rooftop solar installations in the state doubled in the March quarter, as part of a country-wide trend to install more solar in reaction to high grid prices and inadequate energy policies.

The South Australia government did not respond to enquiries about last week’s talks. Sonnen also would not comment, other than to say that it is still the company’s intention to set up a battery manufacturing plant in Adelaide.

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.

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15 Comments
  1. MaxG 8 months ago

    If I’d be in the shoes of Sonnen, I would think twice to invest under the current regime.

    • BushAxe 8 months ago

      No need to be negative, I’d prefer the industry convinces the new government to use their $100m to encourage multiple VPP’s. Then we can all laugh at a the polar opposite policies between different levels of government of the same party!

      • Joe 8 months ago

        The Marshall couldn’t help himself in taking pot shots at Labor / then Premier Jay during the SA state election over SA’s nation leading Energy Transformation. The Marshall will have some explaining to do, political speak gymnastics, if he starts to embrace all that ex-Premier Jay was doing….won’t look too good with Two Tonguer Turnbull and the Joshie.

        • Ken Dyer 8 months ago

          What do you expect from a mouth breathing, dopy looking former furniture salesman?

          • Kevfromspace 8 months ago

            No need to criticise the man’s appearance. Let’s keep it civilised here.

          • Ken Dyer 8 months ago

            You mean when he is asked a sensible question and all he can say is err

          • mick 8 months ago

            fair enough hes a fuck wit

    • Joe 8 months ago

      Perhaps The ACT or another ‘RE friendly jurisdiction’ would like to host Sonnen’s Battery Manufacturing enterprise.

  2. Jon 8 months ago

    S.A. is still logical for Sonnen to set up with recent manufacturing closures giving up skilled workers and factory facilities.

    Hopefully Marshall helps his constituents rather than scores points, it’s harder to throw rocks from the drivers seat than the opposition.

  3. Michael Murray 8 months ago

    A Marshall who won’t holler for a battery ?

    Sorry that joke is going to get really tired I know. But not as tired as I think I’m going to get of our new government. Still only 1430 days to go.

  4. john 8 months ago

    I expect Sonnen to see the light or no light in this case and not build their factory.
    Dismal outcome.

  5. Paul Surguy 8 months ago

    The labor Gov,was only going to back the loan to get it of the ground and it will self fund itself no cost

  6. DugS 8 months ago

    It is a very interesting situation for the new Liberal team to be in and the outcome is far from clear yet.
    The Renewable Energy sector of the SA economy is busy, vibrant, significant in size and just itching to get bigger. So a fledgling inexperienced government that has an ideological opposition to RE is being confronted with the choice of abandoning its ideology or causing wanton economic harm by failing to support a growing industry. Clearly wise heads are called for and clear air in which to think things through. Shouting abuse will not improve things.
    At this juncture of a new government they need political wins as well as sound decisions that don’t come back to bite them within the election cycle. So a solution will need to be created amongst the interested parties that gives Marshall a win he can take to the party faithful including the Murdoch media, yet quietly supports the RE industry. It’s called investing in political capital, something missing from the Feds but still worth investing in at state level. If we, the RE community, indulge in venting our disappointment at the election outcome by figuratively shirtfronting the new premier then we should not be surprised if he responds accordingly and any chance of building a consensus evaporates. So let’s demonstrate how positive and levelheaded we can be by providing clever mutually beneficial suggestions instead of indulging in invective.

  7. Jolly Roger 8 months ago

    Who is doing the urging ?

  8. daaus 8 months ago

    It is unclear yet what’s going on, but I suspect Marshall is supporting local jobs through Sonnen, the only Australian owned and local company to product batteries from here. A good thing, rather than large US corporate telsa getting all the business…

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