What stops home batteries taking off: Qld Energy Storage Summit

Picture: Managing Director, Phil Livingston.
Liam Walsh, The Courier Mail Friday 24 March, 2017


HOME batteries are the latest electricity buzzwords, but an industry conference on Wednesday heard high prices and consumer concerns are among barriers to the devices’ rapid adoption.

These barriers could be removed with time and technology improvements reducing prices, a green loans-style scheme or a government clearing-house for information, the Queensland Energy Storage Summit was told. Queensland has 425,000 households connected to solar energy — Australia’s highest level, according to the State Government.

But batteries to store excess energy are comparative newcomers. The conference heard of research that Australia-wide there were 6750 solar storage-system installations done in 2016 and this could reach 20,000 in 2017.

A full installation of batteries, panels and devices to transform power could run between $11,000 and $20,000, the conference heard.

Anthony Buckwell of One Stop Warehouse, owned by Chinese power company GCL, and other speakers said prices needed to fall to encourage more than early adopters of technology.

Similar to solar-panel prices falling historically, he said battery storage costs could also drop.

Supply Partners director Lliam Ricketts said the cost issue might be partly solved with a government scheme similar to the Green Loans program, which had lent up to $10,000 for energy-products linked to homes.

Another barrier to adoption was community concern about “speaking to a solar energy storage market company and knowing that the information is accurate” given the industry was new, Mr Ricketts said.

The Queensland government should consider developing an independent resource showing consumers what storage options were available, what was safe or what to look for in an installer, he said.

Philip Livingston, managing director of energy storage start-up Redback Technologies, told The Courier-Mail that storage options, when providing power back into the electricity grid, could assist in the currently debated issue of maintaining peak energy supply.

Stored power could be tapped more quickly than traditional energy generators for when problems struck the electricity grid, he argued. “The benefit of storage is the ability of adding a level of capacity reserve,” he said.

Jill Cainey of energy company S&C Electric argued one advantage of storing power with utilities, compared to a series of households, for the grid was they had scale and thereby were more cost-efficient.

Queensland had a great solar resource but a problem was a fragile network in some remote areas, she said. “Utility-owned storage will delivery energy security at the lowest cost … because of scale and the ability to manage the assets appropriately,” she said.

A Government-backed Queensland Renewable Energy Expert Panel draft report last year said while batteries might not increase the amount of overall renewable energy in the system, it could help “utilise the electricity produced by small-to-medium scale renewables (sources) at times of peak demand”.

“The electricity market modelling for the panel assumes a modest rate of uptake of small scale battery systems over the period to 2020” although this could change if technology costs dropped faster than expected, it said.


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