Expensive grid upgrades unnecessary if Labor backs home solar storage


IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 24 June 2013, Zero Emissions Media Centre, Melbourne

Germany's SMA, the world's biggest supplier of solar inverters, (the device that converts DC power from solar panels on rooftops to AC grid power), essential to every solar system, has announced that it will be mass marketing a solar battery system for households in the fourth quarter of 2013.

"Solar with batteries is a cheaper option than expensive grid upgrades," said Matthew Wright Executive Director of Climate Solution think-tank Zero Emissions.

"Solar incentive programs around Australia have been very effective at getting solar panels on the roofs of over one million Australian homes.  Now its time to move our attention to getting solar power at nighttime by adding battery storage," said Wright

"With very little government support, solar systems installed in our sunny conditions are now affordable and can cover around one third of an Australian household energy needs.  This can be increased to 40% without batteries by 'oversizing' systems and adding east and west facing panels, but going beyond this requires storage.

"Solar power generated at home would offer a huge advantage if it was timed to match all extreme peaks, Unfortunately that hasn't been the case with some peaks occurring just after the sun has set around seven or eight in the evening.

"Prior to SMA's announcement, households have been restricted to smaller solar systems as presently there is only an incentive to produce power at exactly the same time that it is being used.  This means families who are away during the day can only economically install a smaller 1.5-3kW solar system, 

"With a 1.5-3kW solar system Australian families can eliminate about 30 percent of their power consumption using a standard north facing installation. To push this further they can shift a proportion of their panels to be due east and due west facing and boost their self consumption upto around 40 percent.  If we add batteries, households could reduce their annual electricity purchasing by 75-100% depending on their available roof space and whether they are in a south location like Melbourne or a more sunny northern location like Brisbane.

"With the advent of mass market battery systems, soon it will be economic for families to choose the more efficient option of installing larger solar systems such as a five or a fifteen kilowatt system and shift their daytime solar production using batteries to the high value, high demand evening period, said Wright.

"Solar production peaks at around midday, however household energy use peaks around seven o'clock in the evening. By combining solar with battery storage systems we can match these evening peak loads.

"In Queensland as in other places closer to the equator, the solar resource, even during the winter months is so good that it is quite likely that many households will eventually choose to leave the grid altogether getting 100% of their electricity all year round from their solar storage system.


"According to the Federal Government each new 2.5kW (electrical input) air conditioner that is installed and operated during extreme summer peaks where prices soar to $12,500 MWh is subsidised a whopping $7,000 by ordinary householders due to forced electricity poles and wire upgrades..

"These grid upgrades are costly and are hidden away in our electricity bills and an average consumer would be paying more than $1000 a year for a grid that is unnecessarily oversized and costly.

"We've been investing way to much in the grid when evening peaks can be met more cheaply with solar and batteries, said Wright.

"There is an opportunity now for the government to offer an incentive program for solar grid battery systems.

"To make this happen, we need to kickstart the industry and with Germany's SMA, one of the major suppliers now gearing up to offer a solution, now is the time for the Australian Labor government to make an announcement and follow through immediately with action on the ground.

"A simple incentive scheme for example could initially provide a $350 per kWh (kilowatt hour) (about $3,500 for a house that installs a full 10kWh system) incentive for the first 30,000 systems installed nation wide, this would be much cheaper and come in at around a 50-75% discount when compared to poles and wire upgrades a saving for consumers of between $3,500 and $10,500 per household.

"The incentive could then be scaled back in an orderly fashion to $250 per kWh for the next 40,000 systems and finally $100 per kWh for the final 100,000 systems.

"To avoid mistakes that have occurred with previous arbitrary stop/start governments programs,  at commencement the solar industry would be notified of the plan including the measured orderly phase out once the cap of approximately 170,000 households is reached.

"The scheme would also be timed to run over three years and if the take up level was to be to great then the level of subsidy would be reduced, freeing up funding to further increase the amount of participants (more participants less incentive per participant) that could be included in the plan" said Wright

"As is the situation with solar panels and is the situation with the computer industry, mass adoption of these battery storage technologies will see prices drop quickly, a small stimulus from a smart government looking for a popular, economically prudent program willl get the ball rolling.

"At the end of a program like this, we will have a mature solar storage industry, where solar power is powering homes during the most critical peaks, saving money for households and most importantly saving money for all consumers by putting an end to the viscous cycle of poles, wires and substation upgrades that are causing a surge in electricity prices for ordinary Australians.

"Here is an opportunity for the Australian Labor Government to do something popular with the community that will save participants and the broader community money.  It's cheaper to subsidise solar battery systems in homes reducing those households energy costs than to build poles and wires to provide the same power during extreme peak demand events.

Save money, build solar with storage, said Matthew Wright Executive Director Zero Emissions Australia.

N.B. As of June 2012 a 10kWh solar storage system costs around $7,000 for the batteries and the proposed initial incentive would cover half the cost.  In addition to the batteries a storage system will likely as in the case with the SMA product include a power router for smart energy management at home which will allow scheduable loads such as dishwashers and washing machines to operate while the solar conditions are favourable making payback times even shorter.

FOR COMMENT Matthew Wright 0421 616 733 matthew@zeroemissions.org.au


Reuters: Germany's SMA says device to store solar energy can cut bills


Draft Energy Whitepaper - $7,000 subsidy for each 2.5kW air conditioner that is installed and operated during infrequent summer peaks