While ARENA itself may be on borrowed time, the agency is continuing in its work to fund emerging renewable energy technologies. The latest grant will attempt to develop storage and battery control technology that could help meet some of the challenges facing Australian grid operators, the biggest of which being the "peaky" nature of electricity demand.
ARENA is under threat from the current government, which was elected in September of last year, which plans to axe the body – along with doing away with Australia’s carbon price and a raft of other climate change mitigation policies and bodies.
Sunverge Energy plans to work with energy retailers to offer solar packages that include its innovative storage solution, said Ivor Frischknecht, ARENAs CEO. This approach has the potential for fast, widespread adoption of the technology, increasing the supply of renewable energy in Australia.
Sunverge has developed an energy management system that it calls the Sunverge Solar Integration System (SIS). It reports that it has 300 SIS units in the field in Australia and overseas.
Storage is an attractive proposition for Australian PV households, of which there are over 1.3 million. With high electricity prices and nominal prices paid for PV electricity fed back into the grid, for those households that have installed PV after the various state FIT subsidy programs wound up, maximizing the self consumption of PV electricity pays off. One PV installation firm in Australia recently told pv magazine that almost half of the enquiries it receives include questions about battery storage.
In todays release from ARENA announcing the Sunverge funding, Frischknecht pointed to the opportunity utilities have to offer solar plus storage systems on a lease basis. Currently, the vast majority of PV systems in the country are purchased outright.
By offering renewable energy systems without upfront costs, utilities can give Australian consumers greater choice and more control over their energy supply, said Frischknecht. Customers are able to use a mobile phone app to track how much solar is being generated, how much stored power is available, and how much money they have saved.
Earlier this month Sunverge closed a B round of financing, attracting venture capital investment from Southern Cross, the VC arm of Siemens, and Total Energy Ventures.