Labor Pledges “Solar Banks” And Community Batteries

Powering Australia Plan - solar and batteries

Among Labor’s renewables related commitments are initiatives to make solar power accessible to some of the many Australians currently missing out.

On Friday, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese unveiled his party’s Powering Australia plan, which he says will slash greenhouse gas emissions 43 per cent by 2030, create more than 600,000 new jobs, reduce electricity prices by $275 a year per household by 2025 and stimulate a shedload of private investment.

While under a business-as usual-scenario there would be a 35% emissions reduction anyway, as the Climate Council’s Amanda McKenzie notes:

“Labor’s plan helps bridge the gap between the Morrison Government’s do nothing approach, and state government and business leaders who are forging ahead to create jobs and grow our nation’s prosperity by slashing emissions this decade.”

The somewhat underwhelming nature of Labor’s emissions reduction outcome given the situation humanity finds itself in aside, there are some interesting elements in the plan in relation to solar power.

Shared Solar Banks

An estimated 35 per cent of Australia’s population is locked out from accessing solar benefits – primarily renters, apartment residents and those simply unable to afford the upfront cost. Labor’s Share Solar Banks initiative would involve $100 million direct investment to support around 25,000 households to own or lease part of a large solar installation.

This isn’t a new idea – “shared solar bank” projects are already being pursued under a different name; “solar gardens”. We reported last year in Sydney’s Inner West Council region – an area with a very high level of apartment dwellers – residents currently locked out of solar savings have the opportunity to access them via the proposed Haystacks Solar Garden project situated some 500 kilometres away. It involves participants purchasing a 3kW “plot” in the 1MW solar garden, with the energy generated sold to a partner electricity retailer that provides a credit on participants’ electricity bills.

How that’s progressing isn’t clear as there haven’t been any updates for some time.

The Labor Scheme would fund half of the capital costs of each project and it’s envisioned around 85 one-megawatt solar farms would be constructed.

Community Batteries

If Labor wins the next election, it will invest $200 million over four years in community batteries through a capped, standalone grants program. This would deliver around 400 community battery systems with a proposed 500kWh capacity each.

As to where the batteries would be installed, it may include communities prone to natural disasters and those experiencing “fringe-of-grid” issues where it is costly to upgrade and maintain poles and wires serving them.

Community battery storage is also proving to be useful in areas with solar uptake so high it threatens grid stability at times. While these periods may be quite short,  this has led to zero solar exports or low export limits imposed on new solar households in affected areas. In some places, households and businesses have been prevented from installing systems.

Community batteries can act as a “solar sponge”, storing surplus solar energy and releasing it when needed later in the day or overnight – and generally improving local network electricity quality.

More On Labor’s Powering Australian Plan

Among various other actions under Labor’s Powering Australia plan is an electricity grid infrastructure blitz to address transmission issues and drive down power prices, an electric car discount and reducing the Australian Public Service’s emissions to net zero by 2030.

“Less than a month after the biggest climate conference in world history Australia has been asked to try again when it comes to climate policy, after being ranked last in the world,” said Mr. Albanese. “The Morrison Government is unable and unwilling to rise to this challenge. Labor will, and as we do, we will create jobs, economic opportunities across Regional Australia and cheap power.”

Labor’s full Powering Australia Plan and modelling is available here. You can catch the related press conference here (video + transcript).

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. George Kaplan says

    Is it just me, or does this not make much sense?

    Albanese is offering a plan which will allegedly slash greenhouse gas emissions by 8%, but claiming 43% as emissions are supposed to shrink by a third regardless. That’s pure politics, but at least I can follow it.

    More confusing is the $100 million of taxpayer funds that will be directed to a mere 25,000 households to own or lease a solar installation of some kind. These households are restricted to renters, inner city apartment dwellers, and those who somehow can’t afford to buy a solar system despite options for 24 month interest free payment plans.

    At present there are over 10 million households in Australia, meaning less than 0.25% of households will benefit from Labor’s proposal. It doesn’t appear to be asset tested, so wealthy inner city apartment dwellers can partake, but impoverished rural home owners can not. It’s also not clear how Centrelink will address the acquisition of a ‘solar installation share’ – assuming pension and benefit recipients are eligible, or how leasing would work, and that’s just obvious questions from the article.

    Looking at the policy site itself, I’m seeing a lot of money being spent, a lot of claims of job creation – 89% indirect, but no actual evidence behind the claims. The modellers are a Melbourne based Green funding company with links to China. It recycles the claim that Australia is the 14th largest emitter, as opposed to 135th out of 184 by emissions per square mile, and ignores that Australian emissions are shrinking, whereas China’s (#1 polluter) are still growing and set to keep growing for some time.

    The minimum figures given for travelling 100 km are based on unclear assumptions – either a mere 9 km per litre, which is horrendous mileage, or assumes petrol costs roughly twice what it presently does. And there’s still no discussion of the range issue. As a friend recently pointed out, she can’t drive an EV from her place back to her mother’s simply because it’d take too long – add a day or so just for all the recharging, assuming fast charge stations were available whenever the battery was about 90% flat which as we all know is completely untrue. Use regular mains power and a 2 day journey by petrol car would take weeks by EV. Labor promises to reduce the costs of said EVs, but treats the $60,000 mark as cheap. You could buy 2x decent new petrol vehicles for that, and have money for a new solar system!

    All in all Labor is promising to spend billions to achieve PR goals, but fails to show how these will benefit Australia, and appear to deliberately avoid addressing what, other than billions of taxpayer dollars, their plans will cost Australia. If for instance Australian exports crash 20% – as would be the case merely by blocking coal, or 30% if petroleum gas is added to the mix, then you’ll have hundreds of thousands out of work (direct and indirect), massive increase in unemployment payments, massive reductions in tax revenue, and that’s not factoring in social costs etc.

    There’s a few interesting ideas to be sure, but no evidence, and nothing convincing, except for those already inclined to believe. In short it’s a political PR piece for party members, not an argument to convince ordinary, let alone skeptical, voters.

  2. daniel debreceny says

    An entire day for EV charging? That’s 19,200km @ 120kW DC charging speed, 150Wh/km.

    100km / (9km/L) = 11.1 L/km. Basically a common SUV.

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