Western Australian energy retailer Synergy and its state government owner continue to feel the heat over its apparent “ban” on battery storage and electric vehicles, and have promised that they will review the offending clauses in contracts with customers.
As RenewEconomy’s sister site One Step Off The Grid wrote last week, several clauses in Synergy contracts with solar customers threaten that solar installations will not remain connected if the customer adds battery storage or EVs.
There has been some confusion over whether this meant full disconnection, or the loss of the ability to export solar power (or power stored in batteries) back to the grid. It appears to be the latter, and Synergy and energy minister Mike Nahan agree that the contract has been poorly worded.
Under questioning from Greens MLC Robin Chapple this week, Nahan said there was no intention to ban battery storage or electric vehicles, and he said that the offending clauses would be reviewed.
Nahan earlier this month made the extraordinary prediction that rooftop solar would meet all daytime demand within 10 years. He said solar was “cheap” and “democratic” and the government would encourage the technology because it would help force out coal fired generation.
The issue is being presented as a “communications snafu”, but it actually goes deeper than that.
Synergy has suggested that it has no choice but to pass on the rules by network operator Western Power, also government owned, and said the rules – under the access arrangements approved by the Economic Regulation Authority – would not be changed until 2017.
But RenewEconomy understands that this is not exactly the case. We are told that at the time of the last regulatory reset in 2012, Western Power proposed that these access arrangements, known as “reference services” should include customers who also had battery storage systems and electric vehicles.
But during public consultation on Western Power’s proposal, Synergy raised operational concerns regarding extending the reference service to battery storage and electric vehicles.
The ERA then took the view that, because demand for battery storage and EVs would likely be limited, and their impact on the network operations unknown, the two technologies should not be included in the reference services for households with solar PV.
However, services for electric vehicles and battery storage systems could still be provided as non-reference services, and there is nothing preventing Synergy from supplying an electricity service to customers with battery storage and/or EVs, along as it is not on a bi-directional service.
Critics says this will need to be changed in the regulatory reset in 2017, particularly given Nahan’s bullish forecasts for rooftop solar.
He said the contracts, as they stood, had significant legal ramifications for anyone wishing to install a battery storage system in conjunction with their existing rooftop solar.
“This is a win for every electricity consumer in Western Australia, not just those Synergy customers who already have rooftop solar.”