Ergon publishes 10-point ‘reality check’ list for would-be off-gridders

Queensland utility Ergon energy has decided to address the issue of grid electricity defection by publishing a 10-step guide for consumers considering the idea.

Ergon, which doubles as the main network operator and retailer in Queensland and services regional and sometimes remote areas, is likely to be at the forefront of the move to quit the grid. In fact, it predicted as much in its annual report several years ago.

“With reducing costs for solar PV/battery systems and a rise in off-grid enabled products on the market, many more people are considering making the switch,” the company notes in its newly posted off-grid briefing for consumers. “We’re here to support you in any decision you make about your energy future. So, if you’re thinking of going off-grid one day, we want to ensure you’re well informed before you spend any money.”

The principal author of the report, Dean Comber, Ergon’s product manager for customer inverter systems, says it is about providing consumers with “choice and control”, and this involves solar PV, battery storage and home energy management systems.

“We appreciate there is a small and growing number of customers who wish to exercise choice and control by buying and managing their own electricity generation and storage system and disconnecting their premises from the grid,” Comber told RenewEconomy in an emailed statement.

“Based on our insights from our research, the media, and informal discussions with customers and intermediaries such as the PV and storage industry, we want to ensure aspiring grid-disconnectors have an understanding of the realities of living with a stand-alone system.

“As you know, once they buy their Tesla or other battery system, disconnecting from the grid may seem an easy next step, in theory, but it’s not the same for every customer and there are many technical or cost differences between grid-connected and stand-alone battery systems.”

The Ergon approach is a softer one than that adopted by the main networks lobby, which last year published assessments that put the cost at disconnecting at around $72,000 a home. That may be the case for some, but not for all.

Comber, in an email to colleagues in other networks a few weeks ago, said Ergon was seeking to highlight the realities of leaving the grid, “without looking like a big corporate entity trying to scare customers into staying with us.”

The key motivation, he says, is to minimise bad outcomes for customers who want to disconnect, but find that it is not such a great idea for them. Those bad outcomes include having oversized systems, still facing standing charges, or just finding the whole experience terribly inconvenient.

Top image: Aquion AHI battery.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson