Ahead of the federal election on 21 May 2022, Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt joined solar installers, the Smart Energy Council and candidate for the Queensland seat of Ryan, Elizabeth Watson-Brown, in Brisbane to announce the party’s ambitious “Cheaper and Cleaner Power for Homes and Businesses Plan” – which, is targeted at the kickstarting of a household solar battery boom.
Solar battery boost
According to SunwWiz’s “Australian Battery Market 2021” report, residential solar batteries installations have been rising steadily, with the cumulative tally coming in at approximately 110,00 batteries installation nationwide.
However, after several years of steady growth, the uptake of residential solar batteries is set to boom in response to declining feed-in-tariffs (FITs), state-led policies and, if the Greens have anything to say about it, a federal policy too.
The Greens’ plan includes grants for householders and business owners of up to $25,000 and loans of up to $100,000 to help transition away from gas and to electric. But perhaps the policy’s most interesting aspect is its support for solar batteries.
Under the policy, homes and businesses could receive grants up to $10,000 ($5,000 for households, $10,000 for small businesses) and loans of up to $50,000 to purchase solar batteries. Not only that, but the plan also seeks to provide similar subsidies to support the domestic battery manufacturing industry.
Along with a raft of other investments, the “Cheaper and Cleaner Power for Homes and Businesses Plan” represents $17.1 billion in funding for the electrification of Australian homes, $14.8 billion into electrifying small businesses and $12.6 billion into installing small scale solar batteries in homes and business over the course of the decade.
“The Greens’ plan will help people get batteries for their homes and switch from gas to renewables,” said Greens leader Adam Bandt MP, “cutting power bills and cutting pollution.”
“The Sunshine State is a renewable energy paradise, but not everyone can afford batteries to get the most of out of their solar panels,” Bandt continued. “The Greens will make sure Queenslanders are getting bang for their buck and we expect this plan will see power bills drop to record lows.”
Fabulous day in Ryan with @SmartEnergyCncl launching our plan to make solar batteries affordable.
The @Greens plan ensures everyone can afford to switch to renewables.
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) April 23, 2022
Bandt likened the solar battery policy to government support which helped to bring down the cost of solar panels so spectacularly that Australia is now the world leader in residential solar uptake.
“The Greens want to do the same with batteries,” said Bandt. “This is a practical way to tackle the climate crisis and ease cost of living pressures … Australia has so much sun and wind that we can produce clean energy cheaply, and by supporting households and businesses to install batteries and get off gas, it’s a win for climate and cost of living.”
Greens candidate for the seat of Ryan, Elizabeth Watson-Brown, spoke to the strong uptake of solar in the electorate and said grants for homes and small businesses “will mean less pollution, cheaper bills and more reliable renewable energy for local homes and businesses.”
Solar battery boom
Just like solar, the capacity of which increased by a scale of 100 over the 2010s (0.2 GW in 2010 to over 20 GW today), solar batteries are on the verge of a massive uptake, and it’s on the back of steady solar.
As more and more solar lights up with the sun in the middle of the day and feeds a proportion back to the grid which was not designed for such influx at non-peak times, batteries are required to soak up some of that excess solar energy and make it available when the grid needs it.
This provides a new revenue opportunity for solar households now that FITs are on the decrease. With a solar battery the excess energy generated throughout the day can be stored for use by the household at night or fed back into the grid when it is most needed. So not only will you be all but energy independent and impervious to black and brown outs, but solar panel and battery owners can recover some of the revenue previously counted on through FITs.
However, since solar batteries have not yet fallen in price as precipitously as solar panels, many are hesitating to make the plunge. The Greens’ plan would ensure beyond any doubt that the purchase of a solar battery would be a profitable one not just for the household or small business in question, but also resulting in cheaper power bills for all.
There is also the argument that by delivering increased demand to residential battery makers, that they will be able to develop innovations that will drive down the cost of future battery systems. While battery cells remain in high demand, primarily as a result of the rapid expansion of electric vehicle uptake, residential battery makers can optimise on the power electronics – or the brains of the battery – to deliver more efficient, longer lived, and potentially cheaper residential battery systems.
Australia has considerable home-grown technical knowhow when it comes to battery systems and power electronics. Already, a number of residential battery makers have established manufacturing operations in Australia – particularly in South Australia, where they have been encouraged to do so through supportive state government policies. There is evidence that the same could be true elsewhere in Australia on the back of the plan launched by the Greens during this election campaign.
The Greens say their plan has been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office and the plan would be paid for by making billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share of tax while winding back massive subsidies to big polluters.