Western Australia to clear the way for battery rollout

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With over 500 MW of distributed solar PV already in place and annual growth of around 20%, the state of Western Australia is in line with much of the sunburnt country in embracing rooftop solar. It could now see major growth in battery installations, with state regulators intent on clearing regulatory hurdles currently inhibiting the growth of battery storage.

“Reform to the electricity industry is an important issue for this government,” said Energy Minister Mike Nahan, in an interview with news.com.au. “[Grid operator] Western Power and [state-owned utility] Synergy are currently in discussions to achieve a solution to allow batteries to export to the grid. I expect to make an announcement in the coming weeks.”

Currently the installation of batteries is allowed in the state, however they are not allowed to export electricity to the grid. “There are currently 440 customers within the South West Interconnected Network (SWIS) that have batteries installed and draw from those storage facilities for their own use,” a Synergy spokesperson informed pv magazine in a statement.

“Synergy and Western Power are now working towards is entering into a non-reference service agreement that will allow storage customers with a means to export into the network,” the Synergy spokesperson continued.

The current prohibition of exporting to the grid from batteries is a legacy of the “reference agreement” under which Western Power and Synergy operate. Synergy says that this is a result of the agreement having been drawn up in a time in which widespread battery storage was not envisaged.

“There was a significant level of the unknown regarding the direction of those future technologies at the time the previous access arrangement was approved,” Synergy stated.

Cost curve drives a change of heart

The move to clear the way for widespread battery storage is consistent with a shift in the conservative Western Australian government’s approach to solar PV and storage. While previous policies sought to prop up state-owned coal generators in the state, Energy Minister Nahan has bee active in acknowledging the cost reductions solar has achieved and the inevitability of its dominance in the state’s electricity supply in the future.

“Australia is an ideal test market for residential battery storage products due to high peak tariffs and the relatively large existing base of installed solar photovoltaic systems,” Nahan told news.com.au.

A trial project in the state capital Perth is currently rolling out battery storage in a new residential development.

“This government has done more for renewable energy in this state than any other, including the Australian-first trial to examine battery storage and energy efficiency incentives for consumers at Alkimos Beach, north of Perth,” said Nahan.

Synergy is understood to be preparing to offer battery storage to its customers, along with gas retailer and electricity retailer Alinta.