Australia’s new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed to installing 400 community batteries as a key election promise, part of the Labor party’s broader renewable-friendly set of policies.
We now have details on the first launch of one of these community batteries and it’s launching this weekend, on Sunday June 5th, 2022, just 2 weeks after the election.
This date aligns well with the UN’s World Environment Day.
On Sunday, the Yarra Energy Foundation will launch Victoria’s first inner-urban community battery. The battery won’t be a standard white box, with YEF selecting a local artist Hayden Dewar to transform it into a striking solar-punk emblazoned battery.
Residents, industry and government representatives from across Victoria, interstate and overseas are expected to attend the event.
With skyrocketing energy prices, community batteries offer a path to reduce the cost of power.
Australian’s have really capitalised on the advantages of rooftop solar, with 1 in 5 Australian households already reducing their power bills by collecting energy from the sun. This represents the highest per-capita uptake in the world.
Despite the solar success, just 1 in 60 households have battery storage, with most struggling to make the economics of an outright battery offer any return on investment. With solar panels, payback can be as little as a few years and the panels can last 25 years. The battery payback is at least 10 years on a decent system and the warranty is also around 10 years.
An alternative approach is to have community batteries, so instead of having each household get a small battery to store the energy that hits their rooftop, the energy of up to 100,000 Australian households, could be stored in 400 community batteries across the country.
The energy stored in the batteries during the day, is then used to provide cheap power to the community at night. Even households that don’t collect solar during the day, will get benefit from the lower prices in that area.
These community batteries represent a $200 million investment, in an effort to cut power bills, cut emissions and reduce pressure on the electricity grid.
What is a community battery?
A community battery is typically the size of a 4WD vehicle, and provides around 500kWH of storage that can support up to 250 local households.
Solar households will feed into the battery during the day and draw from the stored energy at night.
Any excess electricity stored in a community battery above local community needs can be sold into the grid when it is needed most – in the early evenings – putting further downward pressure on electricity bills.
While models will be tailored to local needs, community batteries will be funded by the Commonwealth, installed by licensed electricians, and operated by network operators.
Once a battery is installed in a community, providers will invite local households to participate – just like they offer solar and battery schemes now.
It just makes good sense to share a single community battery among up to 250 households instead of expecting every household to pay for the purchase, installation and maintenance of their own battery.
Community battery benefits
Solar households without batteries have to rely on the electricity grid when the sun isn’t shining. Increasing battery storage will:
- Cut power bills for households – by taking advantage of inexpensive solar energy that can be stored and used at peak times;
- Cut emissions – by increasing the total use of renewable energy; and
- Reduce pressure on the grid – by reducing community reliance on the grid at peak times when the sun isn’t shining.
The Australian Energy Market Commission recently flagged a rule change that would charge solar households for feeding energy into the grid.
This proposed rule change highlights the community-wide need for household solar to be supported by battery storage.
Community batteries offer greater economies of scale than household batteries, with lower capital, installation and maintenance costs.
Community batteries also store and distribute electricity more efficiently, by allowing excess solar power to be shared (for example when families are on holidays, or with households unable to install solar).
Community batteries are being rolled out in various locations around Australia. Labor’s support will accelerate the rollout to the benefit of households and the environment.
While grid-scale batteries will play a critical role in our energy future, they don’t allow individual households to directly store and draw from their own solar power.
More information at ALP.org.au