Australia to lead world in solar and battery storage: report

solar and batteries

Solar & Batteries will be installed in half of all Aussie homes, sooner than you think.

How long before solar and battery storage becomes the cheapest way to access electricity in Australia? A decade? Twenty? Thirty years?

Only three years according to a new report from the Climate Council, which also found that an expected half of all Australian households will soon have solar and battery storage. Should this eventuate, it would mean a stunning 50-fold increase over the next ten years with a potential worth of around $24 billion.

“If they have a tool, a battery, that can allow them to store the surplus power during the day and use it at night, it means they’re going to get greater control than they already have over their power bill,” said the Climate Council’s Andrew Stock.

In identifying the “greater control over power bills”, Mr Stock underlined one of the three key areas why the Council believes Australia could become a world leader in solar and battery storage. The other two being 1. The popularity of solar energy with ordinary Australians and 2. The abundance of sun in our country.

Due to a combination of over investment in infrastructure and in some cases mismanagement, Australians have been subject to enormous rises in power bills. Efforts by fossil fuel lobbyists to blame clean energy subsidies for skyrocketing bills have been disproven by studies from independent bodies such as IPART.

The report found that the availability of cost effective storage would mean Australians who are currently paying high energy bills would be able to store and use electricity from solar panels. So could going completely off grid become a possibility in the near future?

Yes, according to the Climate Council’s CEO Amanda McKenzie.

“Our analysis show that, by 2018 going off grid by installing batteries could be cost competitive with staying connected to the grid,” she said.

While reports of the death of the grid may be premature, the report shows the focus of owning household solar is about to change in a dramatic way. Those with battery storage and solar panels will be increasingly independent of the grid, perhaps ushering in new and revolutionary forms of the grids, such as microgrids, particularly in our regional areas.

The Climate Council’s findings definitely point to these developments happening sooner rather than later — particularly as the cost of battery storage and solar panels decrease. Do you agree? What time frame do you think is practical?

Comments

  1. john nielsen says

    Hi Rich,
    I think it will be sooner rather than later. I reason this by the fact that power prices have risen 20 percent in a year in my area. Governments and the grid companies don’t want us to have solar power, i.e. 6.5 cent pay in tariff, only about 2 to 3 kW installations allowed. This doesn’t make sense to the average person who wants to have solar power, thus he will go off grid with a 5 kW plus hybrid system with batteries, but remain connected to the grid for the rainy day. The government is anti renewable energy and turning the country upside down to ship out our polluting coal.
    John Nielsen

    • Thanks John. Do you think the change in leader has changed anything in regard to the government’s policy on renewables?

      • The change of leader is a bit early to answer, unfortunately I still think we only got a ‘new shovel’ but kept the old sh*t. Time will tell, however the pace with which coal mining is being pushed gives little joy and the environmentally aware public has to be very awake. A very good indication will be how Australia will conduct itself in Paris.
        As for solar energy the sooner companies like Enphase, Zen, Tesla come out with affordable solutions the better. I can’t wait and I am ready

      • Just to stick bib in:- Malcolm Turnbull has always impressed me (as far as any politician could), but, put to the test, appears to be just as gutless and brainless as any other politician/bureaucrat whose main concern is retaining/cultivating his/her job.
        I wouldn’t be putting any money on the line based on Turnbull’s reliability.

  2. Simon Benz says

    Often just saying it could happen is enough to make it come true and word of mouth helps- we’ve been off-grid since January ( we bought a home that was already set up with panels, wind and batteries ) and since mid September we never need to use the back-up generator at night!
    I think once others can hear that people are actually living on panels and batteries they realise it’s not only possible but much easier than they may have thought!

    • Thanks for the excellent comment. Do you live in the country or city Simon?

    • Derrick Nalli says

      Your setup sounds great.
      What voltage is your wind and battery setup.
      What do you expect your battery cost to be per year?

      • I posted some numbers elesewhere here regarding the ‘battery cost per year’, Derrick. And the point was that if you use your brains and a small amount of restraint the cost of battery-power is LESS than (what I’m paying for) the ‘Service to Property’ charge alone.
        And has been for several years.
        My own consistent experience has been that a battery-bank with a (real) life-expectancy of 5-plus years are paid for by 3 years worth of Service-to-Property charges. Meanwhile the former is getting cheaper and cheaper and the latter is getting more and more expensive.

        Why anyone would even consider a ‘power-wall’ that must remain attached to the grid to work is beyond me.

  3. alex in wollongong says

    The numbers from my 4.5kwPV system show that solar is close to break even right now. I generate 16kwh /day,my useage is also 16kwh per day due to daytime generation & night useage I import 10kwh/day , export 10kwh/day, my bill has reduced by 53%,.With the installation of a 7.2kw Tesla Powerwall due for release in Australia within months I will only import energy from the grid during bad weather..
    My annual consumption is 5,840 kwh @ 26c grid price = $1,518. I estimate that after a Powerwall is installed the cost will drop to $1 per day.
    The PV system cost me $7,600 plus powerwall @ say $5,000 installed Total $12,600 financed @ %5 on mortgage giving annual cost of $630 or 11cents/kwh.
    I live south of wollongong near the coast & the above numbers are from the meters after 335days of operation.
    Alex

    • Thanks for the breakdown Alex. Does that mean you’d consider installing a Powerwall when they become available?

    • Yes Minister says

      I’d be absolutely horrified if my usage was 16kwh per day. Over the past five years my average is well under 5kwh, mind you no rugrat or for that matter any juvenile is permitted past the front gate let alone inside the house. A few power bills I’ve seen make me wonder what people have running, eg does SWMBO wash and dry everything twice daily ?? My house was designed to be extremely energy efficient but that doesn’t mean I leave every light in the place on all night or run the clothes dryer several hours a day. Airconditioning is unnecessary even on the hottest day due to the place being designed for the climate rather than following whatever trend is the flavour of the week. One little trick that does make a surprising difference to grid connect sytems is connecting the fridge, freezer, washing machine, dryer and sewerage system to tariff 33. Before I installed the off grid system, tariff 33 cut my contribution to the establishment considerably. These days I don’t need to use any external power because the 12 panel off grid system is sufficient to run everything.

      • alex in wollongong says

        I power my house plus a granny flat. More importantly my example shows that solar is now cost effective.
        Alex

      • That’s two of us, Sir Humphrey.
        23,499,687 to go. 😉

        • Yes Minister says

          What happens to the 23,499,687 odd is the very least of my concerns. Everyone in the country was offered heavily subsidized PV systems with a lengthy FiT, but most of them chose not to accept it. I had intended starting with a 5kw system but thankfully changed that to 10kw before the subsidies were abolished. When a certain mentally deprived ex-treasurer started crapping on about solar people being champagne sippers and latte drinkers, I added as many extra on-grid panels as the inverters could handle, and installed the off-grid system so I could sell ALL the green electrons. If there was any conceivable way of milking the system more than I do, it would have been done years ago. By and large, the ‘establishment’ is extremely efficient at extracting blood from us mushrooms so I really enjoy getting a win occasionally.

  4. Rich, your article raises interesting questions. I think there’s no doubt that we’re going to see tectonic shifts in the energy industry over the next few years but I don’t think we’ll see massive grid defection. More likely we’ll see the energy companies do a complete about-face as soon as large numbers of people start thinking about going off-grid. At that point they will embrace roof-top solar with storage as if it were their idea in the first place.

    As you’ve written about at length on this site, the Powerwall will dramatically reduce the cost of battery storage. That will be fantastic for people in off-grid locations but it will be no-where near economical for my little, grid-tied Greeny Flat. Our entire energy bill for our first year was $258 (all of which was the cost just to be connected to the grid). A single powerwall is likely to cost close to $10,000 installed here in Australia. So even if it were capable of reducing our bill to nothing, it would take about 40 years to recoup the cost. Meanwhile it will be warranted for maybe 10 years…. the numbers don’t even come close to stacking up for us. Perhaps for houses with bigger bills it might work, but they would likely need two or three Powerwalls to meet their power requirements. Once it becomes available it wouldn’t hurt for people to contact an installer and have them run the numbers based on their home’s historical power consumption but I would be very surprised if it makes economic sense for many people.

    In fact, that would be a wonderful subject for an article from Solar Quotes. Could you calculate any situations where buying a Powerwall or going off-grid makes economic sense? And what about the Enphase integrated energy storage, monitoring and management system that is due to be released in Australia in December? How do the numbers stack up with that system?

    You would be doing us all a huge favour if you could give some guidance as to when and where battery storage will make sense.

    Cheers, Andy

    • Excellent idea Andy, thanks for the feedback and thought for a future article. Your point is very well made, going off grid won’t be financially viable just yet however the quantum leaps in battery storage technology, and their charge down the cost curve may make it so earlier than most of us think. Perhaps an entirely new grid paradigm would make solar and battery storage more affordable. Microgrids?

      • Hi Rich,

        There needs to be more info on the usable power available from these battery banks & not just the numbers that look good. I’m currently crunching my own numbers to figure out how much real usable power I can obtain from a given size battery bank. Comparing the different types to get the best output of my money. Maybe there is a idea for Finn, maybe. Eg approx – a 6kw lead acid storage will give you 2 kw of usable power with a 30% drain daily around 2500 cycles, where as lifepo4 6 kw can give you 3kw of usable power with a 50% drain daily around 5000 cycles. This all depends on your batteries, then also you need to look at how much charge you can get back into the bank over how long. May be a little of the tech requirement to achieve these would make for me atleast make comparison a bit easier. I will be doing this my self anyway but some help would be helpful.

        • Yes Minister says

          A 30% discharge of lead acid batteries won’t give much longevity. Personally I’d aim for well under 20%/

  5. Yes Minister says

    I was fortunate enough to have my initial 10kw grid connect system commissioned before June 2011, consequently I get 52c per kwh FiT until 2028. In reality it won’t be that long ar the rate prices are increasing but I’m never going to get a power bill and before long I’ll get effectively free motoring. Last year I added another 12 panels to the grid connect system to increase the productive time, and installed 12 panels with lead acid batteries and 3kw off grid inverter. The off grid system powers the house which means I can sell the full output of the grid connect installation. What prompted me to increase system capacity was the moronic comment by ex QLD treasurer knuckles regarding solar people being champagne sippers and latte drinkers. Well now I can afford quite a bit more of both thanks to stupid. There is still a fair bit of warranty on the 2 5000TL inverters but they will eventually be replaced by either hybrid or off grid inverters plus more batteries. I’m in the market for a Nissan Leaf or something similar so I’ll use a bit of the surplus power when the gubmunt stops paying me enough to be of interest. Probably by then a few more people will have weaned themselves off fossil fuel and I’ll install a charging station outside on the street. Its a remote area so we can get away with stuff that wouldn’t be allowed in a city, but then I’ve always believed the reason some lunatics make laws is so other enterprising folk can break them. I’ve always found the excuses dreamed up by solar deniers fascinating, especially considering that the cost of my original setup was recouped in less than four years, leaving ample time for return on investment before the money dries up. Another valuable perk is that I can thumb my nose at the gubmunt, which gives me somewhat more than a little pleasure.

  6. john nielsen says

    Hi Rich,
    Yes, the change of government leader will (not has) change the government’s policy on renewable. Abbot was great, but not a businessman, Turnbull is.
    Andy is right. The energy companies will do a complete about-face. If they let us have as much solar as we like and sell it to the grid for 6 cents kWh we would only install small battery banks and then buy back at night for say 30 cents kWh. I.e. they would get the power from us for next to nothing, and yet they would sell to us at night.
    The grid company (governed owned) wouldn’t let me have a 5 kW system, but wrote to me that I could have as much solar power as I like as long as I didn’t export it to the grid. So I installed 6 kW with micro inverters, and I have a 36 kWh gel battery bank and with a dod of 70% leaves me only with about 10.8 kWh useable power. My solar system is totally isolated from the grid, no import, no export, and it is running 24 hours per day, 6 person household.
    However we have 4 bedrooms with split system aircon and to run these here in North Queensland from 8 pm to say 4 am I would need about 24 kWh usable energy and that is not feasible, not with the Enphase ACbattery nor the Powerwall, so until I build a flow battery in the backyard the size of a 6 metre shipping container, I will have to use the grid for my aircon, and for this purpose I have a dedicated circuit from the grid, only for my aircon.
    Even in a smaller household than mine, say 4-5 persons, 7.2 kWh Powerwll isn’t going to run just one aircon, fridge, freezer, tv, lights etc all night. As I have understood it, the AC Battery will cost about $1100 per kWh. I believe people will be disappointed with both of these units cost wise. Instead off, have a hybrid system or what I have a standalone system and a grid connection dedicated to heavy loads only. Having said that, when the grid comp changes their minds and when li-ion bats become plentiful and cheap, we might be able to completely quit the grid,,, but that I believe is a long way off for me unless I want to drown in perspiration at night.
    John Nielsen

  7. Yes, according to the Climate Council’s CEO Amanda McKenzie.

    “Our analysis show that, by 2018 going off grid by installing batteries could be cost competitive with staying connected to the grid,” she said.

    For this to come true then before 3 years is up with a payback of less than 10 years then the cost of battery storage would have to be significantly less than current pricing per kWH and the cost of electricity almost doubling in the same period.

    If you are going off grid then based on todays prices approximately $10,000 for an Enphase 5.75 kV PV system a backup 7000w 240v Honda Generator $6,299.00 [Retail]. An 9.6 kVH Enphase AC battery system approximately $17,000.00 installed all totalling $33,299.00 in our case would save a maximum $1,493.40 pa. If you then reduce the savings by the loss of opportunity cost for the investment of $33,299.00 it does not make a lot of sense based on current pricing.

  8. What a pity that not one of the people quoted, yes, including Amanda, mention the fact that you will ALWAYS pay the connection charge IF you are connected to the grid OR IF power lines pass your property and you COULD get connected!

    This is true for NSW, but I suspect all States have similar provisos…

    In our case the so-called availability charge is more than the consumption charge!

    We use about 3.6 kW/h a day and it costs us about $A107 supply charge and around $A75 for actual electricity USE…

    Fix that please before you go off-grid!

    • Yes Minister says

      The supply charge is indeed iniquitous but I’m not aware of any provision in Queensland to charge those householders not actually connected to the grid. Currently its a component of the power bill so there is currently no way to charge anyone who doesn’t get a bill. For what its worth, I still get a bill (or more correctly a statement) even though its always well in my favour. In effect the connection charge is a tax on my FiT.

    • There’s no service charge in Victoria unless you’re connected to the grid.
      But to add to the ‘iniquity’ is the reality that SPAusnet (one of the more expensive distributors) charges Origin (retailer) $99 per year per customer for the ‘Service’ charge. That’s approx. 27 cents per day. Origin currently charges me $1.544 (inc.GST) for that connection ~ a markup of going-on 600% ~ without adding a single penny’s-worth of value.
      …and that’s an increase of 32.2% over the last 12 months.

      • Yes Minister says

        There is quite obviously a different agenda in the political mind than the one(s) the parasites purport to follow. I’m not up to date with the situation regarding the root cause of price escalation in other states however in Queensland it started with ex-premier ‘Teflon Pete’ Beatty promising the unwitting sheeple that retail privatization would result in lower prices. To add insult to injury, the clown corporatized Powerlink, Ergon and Energex, allowing the then government to siphon off the money that had previously been used for network maintenance. Politicians as a breed love the perks of office but abhor any semblance of accountability and / or responsibility, hence much of the motivation for flogging off anything that could conceivably bite them. Ignoring all the male bovine dropping intended purely to obfuscate and mislead, its blatantly obvious that the only permanent fix is to undo all corporatization and privatization, returning all essential services (not only electricity but water, sewerage and roads) to the public sector. Whilst government has no place in running businesses, essential services are just that …. they are most definitely NOT business ventures and anyone who believes otherwise can go stand in the corner and look like the dunce they are. Even with the inefficiencies endemic to bureaucracies, essential services run as such have ALWAYS been more cost-effective for consumers than profit-focussed private enterprise. The issue identified by Jason is only one of countless ones where the ostensibly ‘more efficient’ private operator is gouging customers wherever possible.

  9. Some really thought provoking comments thanks folks. The prevailing wisdom has long been that Australian renewables — particularly the solar sector has been driven from the ground up (from the people). It seems that must continue to convince leaders that there are votes (and money) in renewables as well as a better deal from utilities, who must consider their customers’ needs.

    Time will tell of course.

  10. alex in wollongong says

    Rich, Solar is being driven by economics coming from technology. I calculate that when battery storage is added to my system it will cost me 11c per kwh and provide me with a 12% return on investment.- the sun is rising on solar and setting on coal.
    alex

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