SA’s Home Battery Scheme On The Chopping Block

SA Home Battery Scheme and Switch for Solar Program

South Australia’s Malinauskas Government  is reportedly poised to ditch two Marshall-era renewable energy initiatives – the Home Battery Scheme and Switch for Solar.

The Home Battery Scheme was introduced in October 2018 with a goal of supporting installation of 40,000 solar energy storage systems across South Australia. When it first rolled out, the subsidy was $500 per kWh for non-energy concession holders and $600 per kWh for those on concession; with a maximum subsidy of $6,000 available.

Initially, it was only available for batteries produced in Australia. The first manufacturer to get a guernsey was Germany’s now-Shell-owned Sonnen, which set up assembly facilities at the former Holden site in Elizabeth. At that point, the company said it planned to assemble 10,000 battery systems a year for the local and Asia-Pacific markets. That didn’t eventuate. I can’t remember the duration, but battery assembly at Elizabeth didn’t last all that long.

The Scheme broadened over time to accept more manufacturers and a bunch of solar batteries became eligible. The subsidy also dropped on several occasions. Today, the battery subsidy offers $250 per kWh for energy concession holders and $150 per kWh for non-holders; up to a $2,000 maximum.

And that might just be for today as tomorrow it could be gone altogether.

InDaily and the ABC report SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis says the scheme isn’t achieving what it set out to do and it will be axed in today’s state budget.

“It didn’t work – the market signals weren’t working, there wasn’t sufficient money left to meet the target… you’d have to put more resources in to make a failed policy work – that’s crazy,” he said.

Labor’s axe won’t stop swinging there.

Switch For Solar To Meet The Same Fate

In February 2021, the then-Marshall Government announced a scheme whereby eligible ConcessionsSA customers could swap their concession payments for ten years to get a solar power system.

The Switch for Solar program sounded like a pretty good deal – swapping around $450 in concession payments annually for a decade for up to $890 in electricity bill reductions per year1. At the end of the ten years, participants would get their concessions back and keep the system.

A trial kicked off in May 2021 that involved 1,000 participants. In February this year, then-Deputy Premier Dan van Holst Pellekaan announced the program was to be expanded to 5,000 low income households given the pilot’s success.

But apparently Minister Koutsantonis reckons the program is a “scam”.

“Taking concessions off elderly people is wrong,” he said. “You shouldn’t do it.”

My understanding of the program is no-one was forced to make the swap; it was purely voluntary. There were safeguards in place to not only ensure prospective participants were fully informed about the pros and cons before making a decision, but also that they would receive a good quality solar power system if they chose to proceed.

Both the Greens and SA Liberals have come out swinging over the news of the programs ending.

As for any comment from Dan “The Battery Man” van Holst Pellekaan; he’s pretty quiet these days. His web site is MIA and his Facebook page indicates the big guy may be in deep denial over the Marshall Government’s ousting.

UPDATE 1.30PM. On ABC Adelaide Mornings with Caroline Winter today, SolarQuotes Founder Finn Peacock was among those asked to comment on the situation.

The audio is here, but just briefly, and approximate timestamps for each commenter:

1:46 – David Speirs (State Opposition Leader). He believed the Home Battery Scheme was a success. While not achieving the numbers of batteries desired (yet), South Australians were buying bigger batteries than what was modeled and this saw the then-Liberal Government storage target reached. Mr. Speirs said the bigger picture of the program was helping to improve grid stability in SA.

Mr. Speirs didn’t get the opportunity to comment on the Switch for Solar program.

8:55 – Tom Koutsantonis (SA Energy Minister) – Showed a lack of understanding of both programs, and focused much of his other commentary on Labor’s grand hydrogen plans.

21:49 – Robert Simms (Greens MLC). Mr. Simms said while the programs weren’t perfect, they should be tweaked rather than binned. He believes the decisions are throwing the baby out with the bathwater and expressed concerns about an ongoing shunning of non-Labor ideas and initiatives.

26:05 – Finn Peacock (SolarQuotes) – Finn agreed that both schemes were not perfect, but they were working and just needed fine tuning. Finn said what is needed in energy policy is stability and that big shocks such as these are destructive.

On Labor’s hydrogen fixation, Finn said burning hydrogen to generate electricity is incredibly thermodynamically inefficient.

“As an engineer, I just can’t see how that makes sense.”

Footnotes

  1. Perhaps even more with increased electricity prices for SA on their way
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.

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