Labor to roll out community batteries

Readers will know that the MB view of the uptake of battery power to supplant traditional baseload output reliant on fossil fuels is inevitable.  Now, Labor has seen the light with an actual policy from Albo today:

  • Labor will spend $200m on community batteries.
  • Each is about the size of a four-wheel drive.
  • They will be linked to household rooftop solar and free them entirely from the grid with both inputs and outputs for the NEM.
  • Each battery would cost around $500k (thought that will come down a lot more yet).
  • Labor will also seek to invest in local battery production.

The ANU Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program conducted a recent study and found the batteries viable:

Community-scale batteries can increase the amount of distributed energy resources (e.g. solar panels and electric vehicles) that can be integrated into the distribution grid i.e. increase hosting capacity.
• Network tariffs and market signals shape how the battery’s actions contribute to hosting capacity.
• Community-scale batteries are already financially viable, particularly if FCAS markets can be accessed.
• The technical capability for implementing community-scale storage on the NEM already exists.
• Only DNSP-owned community-scale batteries currently require regulatory exemptions (and only if the battery is being used for anything other than regulatory network services). All other models we investigated can proceed within the current rules and regulations.
• Reduced local network tariffs are crucial for incentivising battery charging from locally generated solar energy and sale of energy to local customers.
• Industry professionals saw significant potential benefits of community-scale batteries, including over behindthe-meter (BTM), virtual power plant (VPP) storage. They also consider the dynamics between actors in disaggregated markets to be a major challenge.
• Householders care about more than just affordability when it comes to energy storage e.g. strong concern over battery life-cycle, promoting local energy use, reducing carbon emissions, questions of fairness and how this technology would fit in the broader energy transition to renewables.

A few more points:

  • The Albo proposal equates to about 400 batteries servicing 100k households. Pretty token stuff. But as a pilot program, it’s a good idea.
  • The installation will be labor-intensive so the jobs spillovers will be significant if the program is broadened.
  • The benefits for those on the receiving end are obvious but the rollout sounds pretty opaque so could end up being “battery rorts”.
  • Labour is yet to tackle the equity question that arises from decentralised power given those left on the grid will have to pay more for it.

If anything, it reminds me of the type of local policy that has made Manchurian Dan Andrews such a formidable force in Victorian politics with his local solutions to railway crossings etc.

My guess is it will be very popular.

David Llewellyn-Smith
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  1. TheLambKingMEMBER

    It certainly makes more sense than ‘taxing’ home solar feed-in during peek hours. Instead, by sticking in a battery in to soak up the excess power and feed it back locally when it is needed adds to the overall power generated, rather than reducing it (in the long term,) and reduces the need for pole & wire upgrades.

    • The Traveling Wilbur

      Yeah. But when it all goes horribly wrong and intermittent power supply interruptions creep into the network, we can all be sure of one thing: it will be Labor’s fault.


      • TheLambKingMEMBER

        But when it all goes horribly wrong and intermittent power supply interruptions creep into the network

        Yes, I know the narrative for the LNP is that it is always Labor’s fault and you are tying to be funny. But, in reality, these batteries will work as local ‘buffers’ for the local network – pulling and pushing power in real time to flatten out power fluctuations.

        This will make the local grid an order of magnitude MORE stable! With the right engineering/software, these local networks will be the most stable part of the network!

        • Jumping jack flash

          Agree, there’s nothing wrong with batteries. Plus they stick it to the gouging electricity oligopoly. I simply love the idea of that. I’m getting my own battery for this exact reason… erhm.. to reduce my electricity costs… yes… of course!

          Intermittency is easily fixed by having a feed in from the grid, just like I am doing to cover the weeks of rain where the battery isn’t being charged, like what is happening currently in my area.
          Although you can’t charge the battery from the grid, the oligopoly has spoken!

          In this particular case grid electricity cost would be distributed among users of the battery infrastructure, until the battery is charged again from the renewables, and switched over.

          I expect the price of electricity to absolutely skyrocket as soon as this begins to be implemented, though. Profit and growth must be maintained at all costs!

          I’m sure this will be the plan’s downfall once the media gets a whiff.

        • The Traveling Wilbur

          Yes, indeed, but I note that you didn’t remark that I was wrong.

          I do notice though that your remark does contain the exact reason why you didn’t, which was most thoughtful of you.

          *if* only it was being built in… well… some other country. Then it’d be ace bloke.

  2. Just ask Elon to fix it. Hes going to redo the whole USA grid. Let’s see how theirs works out.
    The best bit about getting Elon to do things is that he’s not init for the money, he actually wants the most effective and effective system, a true engineer.

  3. TheLambKingMEMBER

    Labour is yet to tackle the equity question that arises from decentralised power given those left on the grid will have to pay more for it.

    But it will reduce the power bills to everyone else because it will reduce overall demand for power! Currently 100k houses with solar create demand for power when it is dark – particularly on the 3-4 peak days for a couple of hours (say 10kwh per home). Once you take that demand – around 1Gwh (100k x 10kwh) you stop those mega expensive peaks!

    It will be very popular – Cheaper power for all households, less carbon emissions, creating more stability. The only real losers are the big fossil fuel power generators – so expect a massive, coordinated, campaign against it from the Murdoch/9 media and the LNP 🙂

  4. Jumping jack flash

    Interestingly the consultant from the solar company who came to my house a month ago to quote me for my solar + powerwall said this was coming, and that I should hold off on getting a battery.

    I’m still getting a battery.

  5. Arthur Schopenhauer

    Two giga scale Battery Factories would be a much better policy. C’mon Labor, do better.

    Albo has reasonable tactics. Needs better strategy. Lets hope the strategy is coming.

  6. Jumping jack flash

    “Labour is yet to tackle the equity question that arises from decentralised power given those left on the grid will have to pay more for it.”

    Oh that one’s easy: fix debt eligibility criteria and provide subsidies so the “poor” people can have access to the debt they desperately need. Then they too can buy a house and attach solar panels to it.

    Access to the correct amounts of debt is as essential as access to electricity these days. To be ineligible for the correct amounts of debt is a crime against humanity. Someone needs to do something to help these people!

    Do it, Albo. You’d be a champion.

  7. MathiasMEMBER

    Some positive news.

    It’ll mean jobs, which is a good thing. I wonder if it’ll be jobs for Australians or jobs for Migrants?

    Im still very dubious of labor. I love this stuff but they havent gone far enough to get me to tick there box just yet.

  8. I’ve got a multi dwelling place in the Yarra which we are renovating for accommodation which means multi air/con, cooktops and water heaters. Quoted 300K by SPAusnet to get 3 phase which is 10km away….yeah, nah…that’s not happening.

    30kw/h of shed mounted solar and 60kw/h of batteries with grid backup see’s the property energy self sufficient for all but the cloudiest and coldest days. $112-$132K are the quotes so far. We would have been looking at $10K per year on power costs if the grid would have been able to supply so we have a 11-13yr payback (assuming flat energy costs).

    Batteries are averaging around $10K each, the decision now comes down to RedFlow Z Cell vs Lithium from LG. LG is cheaper so far but less environmentally friendly and less cycles. Any battery gurus got a view?

  9. My guess it will be the usual govt. rorted scheme and deliver very little.

    Let assume the cost is 10x cheaper than the 193.5 MWh, – $161 Million Hornsdale Power Reserve battery.
    That would be roughly $16.1 Million per 200MWh.
    So $200million would purchase a 2.5GWh battery (approx)

    As of right now according to AEMO the nation is drawing 25GW
    So this ‘battery’ could run 10% of the load for an hour, – using heroic cost assumptions.

    Be better off spending the money on generation than toy batteries.

    • PalimpsestMEMBER

      According to the 2016 Census there were nearly 8.3 Million households in Australia. This pilot will do about 100,000. To scale up to the national load, and that includes industry, smelting, and other uses, on your figures we need about 12 hours (to cover darkness) by 10 times the amount – about 120 times the size of the pilot program. To cover all Australian households the pilot would scale 83 times leaving a power shortfall nationally of about 40 times. However, this is local battery only, there are bigger batteries for the national grid, plus wind, hydro, plus gas and hydrogen (if we don’t export it all). On your figures this would be a game changer potentially supplying over 60% of the National needs from rooftop solar.
      Now, let’s agree these are idealistic figures. High density towers, rural and remote communities would ruin an otherwise great story. Not everyone will afford rooftop solar. Perhaps it is closer to 30-40% of the national demand – but just from rooftops and local batteries. Good grief! The figures are good enough to show that this is a pilot that I’d be reluctant to dismiss as just a toy.

  10. StephenMEMBER

    Community sized batteries are an excellent idea. I’ve thought for a few years now (from before they started building big grid-scale batteries, but still today) that every substation in residential areas should have one.

    It would be cool to use an Australian battery like RedFlow too, supporting local industry (Yes, they manufacture overseas but if the Government were buying enough they could potentially partially subsidise an Australian factory)

  11. “Community” batteries is a dumb label.

    Batteries of all scales are good. For grid stability, climate change and economically.

    The BEST place for any battery is behind an electricity consumer’s meter (resi or industrial matters not). The simple maths is that the financial return is inclusive of the 40% of your your electricity costs which relate to distribution and transmission networks. By creating a stupid “community” battery you forego the potential capture of this 40% of cost and accept MUCH lower investment returns.

    Community batteries are a dumb label given by idealogues who don’t understand the electricity industry’s construction, supply chain, investment or tax.

    Any benefit I get by “owning” part of a “community” battery not located at my PPOR will be assessed as income by the ATO.

    Are the promoters of “community” batteries going to acquire an AFSL to sell units in a battery trust to un-sophisticated investors?

    It’s just utter garbage. A “community” battery is a dumb woke label for “mediocre financial investment in batteries”.

  12. David WilsonMEMBER

    Batteries… tax payer funded or subsidised, why if they are so good.
    As a person living in a high rise unit we are unable to get a decent solar system so we subsidise others who can through power prices and taxation, why should we.
    In Brisbane where I live we have just had a week of rain and cloudy days so good off coal has largely had to carry the can but we are closing coal down, I wonder what we will do when we have no coal and a week of cloudy days…. batteries won’t do it will they.
    I wonder where all the power will come from when we need to double or triple energy production when cars and trucks are all electric?..
    Why should petroleum and diesel powered vehicles subsidise electric vehicles that don’t pay fuel tax or gst on electricity, just another mindless greens, labor farce to me.

    • BradleyMEMBER

      Should have bought a proper house, shouldn’t you? You can’t even harvest water or grow anything in an apartment. All such second rate housing options should cost 50% of the basic house in the area tops.

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