EnergyAustralia revs up solar-battery drive with Redback system

By Angela Macdonald-Smith. Wednesday, 06 September, 2017

EnergyAustralia is promising to “put the customer in the driving seat” of their home energy use with the launch of its “next generation” Redback smart solar-plus-storage system which it says should pay for itself within about seven years.

The system, developed through collaboration with Queensland-based Redback Technologies, uses technology that optimises use of solar panels and batteries depending on conditions, and allows a home-owner to remotely control and monitor its operation.

EA’s head of its new energy business, Andrew Perry, said the launch of the product on EA’s digital site last month had triggered significant customer interest given the favourable payback period.

“We do have strong ambitions for growth,” he said, while declining to reveal any sales targets.

Clean Energy Council chief Kane Thornton said the system was an example of “game-changing” technology that can help consumers tackle their rising power bills.

The intelligent controls in systems such as Redback’s ensure households get the most out of their investment in solar panels and batteries, he said.

EA estimates that an average house using 8000 kilowatt-hours a year would save about $1500 a year by installing a Redback Smart Hybrid system involving a 4.9-kilowatt solar array and 3.3-kilowatt-hour battery. The system would cost about $9000 to buy, or about $7000 to retrofit on to an existing solar panel system, which requires modifications to the inverter.

Easily scale up

Mr Perry said the modularity of the system meant households could easily scale up to the size they needed.

The systems come with a capability to be harnessed into a “virtual power plant”, which EA expects to tap into once appropriate commercial contracts are agreed with customers, he said.

The ability of the Redback software to learn as it goes along means it can control energy in line with user habits and expected changes in the weather.

Payback periods will vary depending on solar radiation levels, with Queensland homes able to expect systems to pay for themselves more rapidly than those in Victoria, for example, Mr Perry said. Feed-in tariffs in various states also play into the equation, but to a lesser extent given the system is intended to increase a home’s energy independence reducing the importance of the economics of sending power back to the grid.

EA invested $9.3 million in the unlisted Brisbane-based start-up Redback Technologies last October, the first major investment by its NextGen business.

Like its arch-rivals AGL Energy and Origin Energy, EA has stepped up investments in new products and services as the majors seek to keep abreast of smaller rivals aiming to disrupt their business models through the application of innovative skills and technology.

Last week it joined with energy software firm Greensync for a 12-month trial of a smart grid in the Mornington Peninsula using Greensync’s deX software platform.


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