Federal environment minister: battery storage & off-grid living ‘clearly the future’

Federal environment minister Greg Hunt has repeated his vow to help accelerate the deployment of battery storage in Australia, after describing it as “inevitable” that significant numbers of consumers would leave the grid in coming years.

Hunt was asked on ABC TV’s Lateline program on Tuesday – following a segment on a couple in the Blue Mountains going off-grid – if he thought that significant numbers of consumers would follow.

“I do. I think it is inevitable,” Hunt said, before noting that Australia already had the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world – an average 15 per cent across the nation.

“Increasingly we will see the adoption of battery storage, which is the key thing to enable people to go off the grid. This is clearly the future,” Hunt said.

“The debate is how long it takes and the task for government is to help bring that forward.”

Indeed, two big international battery storage developers have chosen Australia to be their global launch pad for their battery storage initiatives. This includes Tesla and California counterpart Enphase Energy, which describes the Australian market as the most promising in the world.

Not everyone, however, agrees that consumers should be encouraged to go off-grid, and Hunt’s comments could be seen as controversial if that is what he is urging.

The reality is, however, that unless Australia’s high electricity prices, mostly in the form of inflated grid costs, can be addressed, then that is exactly what consumers will do. Most people argue, however, that the grid should be used as a “cheap battery” for all.

But that cannot be achieved, some suggest, unless the network owners (some of them state governments wishing to sell or lease the assets) accept a writedown in their value, or vastly different revenue models that will result in reduced income.

The CSIRO has warned that up to one-third of consumers could quit the grid if the networks do not get their tariffs and business models right.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson