Australia: Storage provider advocates energy independence over going offgrid

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With Australia fast emerging as the leading global market for distributed battery storage solutions, a leading installer is advocating customers go for ‘energy independence’ rather than disconnect from the grid.

“We envisage a grid connected home, assuming [grid operator] Western Power keeps connection costs reasonable,” Infinite Energy Managing Director Aidan Jenkins told pv magazine. “With enough PV to cover the vast majority of the customer’s load, including potentially eclectic vehicle requirements, battery storage, including in the EV, coupled with Infinite Energy as their electricity retailer can provide them with a price signal to export, import or consume at the most cost effective times and a control system to manage it.”

Jenkins adds that while there is demand from grid connected homes in the state capital of Perth to go offgrid, the costs involved are still prohibitively high.

“Generally we explain to people that this [going offgrid] is not a good idea for two reasons; it is very expensive to go completely off the grid and maintain your current lifestyle as you need to size PV and storage for worse case scenarios, and secondly a customer’s connection to the grid is the future gateway to be able to transact energy.”

Infinite Energy will become one of the first suppliers of both the Tesla PowerPack and PowerWall in Australia, in a deal announced yesterday.

Beyond the metropolitan area, Infinite reports that in rural suburbs or Perth and more remote parts of the state there will also be demand for battery storage as backup.

“People tell us that power outages are a problem for them,” explains Infinite’s Jenkins. “We don’t currently see this in the suburbs though. Having said this, we know Western Power are conducting customer surveys on the balance between paying network costs and reliability. More homes with battery backup will give Western Power more flexibility in this area.”

While the residential sector is expected to deliver demand for battery storage installed alongside new PV arrays and exiting systems, Jenkins says that he expects batteries to be go into commercial and industrial properties even when there is no solar installed.

“Infinite is also offering the Tesla PowerPack, the commercial energy storage, and are already working with a number of customers on this. Synergy, the dominant Electricity Retailer in WA, does not pay a feed-in tariff meaning that customers have to give away their excess electricity, so we expect strong interest,” says Jenkins.

“Unlike the PowerWall, the PowerPack doesn’t need to be integrated into a solar system and can charge purely from the grid, however the PowerWall can AC charge but only via a solar inverter at the moment. This opens up the opportunity for energy arbitrage, peak demand shaving and reduction of capacity charges. We expect this market to be particularly strong.”

Regulations preventing grid connected battery systems in Western Australia were changed by the government in the latter stages of 2015, a move welcomed by Infinite Energy.

“The Energy Minister Mike Nahan directed the regulator and Western Power to expedite allowing batteries to export to the grid in December,” says Jenkins. “This has now happened and the Minister should be congratulated for that.”

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