Electricity pricing structures must change to prevent mass grid defection: Energetics

Electricity utilities and network operators risk sending Australia’s rooftop solar households off-grid in droves if pricing signals remained unchanged, a solar and energy storage expert has warned.

Gordon Weiss, from Sydney-based firm Energetics, told last week’s Clean Energy Week event that the majority of solar households in Australia’s cities were exporting huge amounts of power during the middle of the day – most for very little return – and wondering how best to leverage the value of their solar asset.

For most, energy storage would soon appear as the most effective solution.

According to Weiss, when the levelised cost of solar PV plus battery storage falls below the evening peak electricity price, then batteries will start appearing in garages and basements. And when the levellised cost of solar PV and batteries falls below the average cost of power to the consumer, then consumers will go off-grid.

On Weiss’ numbers, to take an average household off grid would need a 7kW solar system, around 35kWh of storage, plus a generator of some sort.

And he warns that current pricing signals going out to consumers could result in people going off grid in metro areas in large numbers – an outcome, he added, that would not be environmentally or economically desirable.

“Do we want, as a society, lots of 35kwh battery storage systems in the suburbs and lots of backup generators? Maybe a better solution is centralised storage – a big battery pack next to sub stations.”

But to avoid this outcome, the utilities – be they network providers or retailers – will need to get cracking on tailoring a product to match the cost options being presented by the new technologies.

It looks unlikely, however, that they would be able to bring the average bill down below $2,000 a year – the key benchmark for solar and storage.

Top image via Wikipedia

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Giles Parkinson