Keith Gregg has not paid an electricity bill in over a year after installing a solar battery at his Helensvale home on the Gold Coast, but if you’re considering doing the same, there is no financial assistance from the Queensland government in the latest state budget.
- Queensland’s Energy Minister says a discontinued household battery scheme played its role, deeming an extension unnecessary
- Thirteen large-scale batteries are expected to be operational in Queensland by the end of the decade
- South Australia has recently ended their rebate scheme, while the ACT and Victoria’s plans continue
Industry figures say soaring energy prices and the risk of blackouts has home owners rushing to retailers to order solar panels and batteries, but the steep upfront costs are a barrier to many.
Mr Gregg said after years of having solar panels, getting a battery was a no-brainer.
“After a long time of just having the solar power during the day, I simply decided it was a good idea to have solar power at night, as well,” Mr Gregg said.
“It worked very well — it did cost a fair bit of money, but certainly money well spent.”
The retiree said it would be around another two years till he broke even on costs, but it was an easily justifiable purchase.
“We had a power cut here some time ago — my place had all its lights on, I could still watch television, no problems.
“What surprised me was that I didn’t get people pouring in from the other side of the street.”
State invests in large-scale batteries
On Friday, the Queensland government announced a multi-million-dollar investment to ramp up the state’s energy independence.
Thirteen large-scale batteries will be rolled out across the state, including a 200-megawatt battery at Greenbank, at Logan south of Brisbane — the state’s largest.
The batteries are expected to operational by the end of next year.
Queensland Minister for Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Mick de Brenni said the investment was the best strategy to bring relief to household energy costs, rather than rebates for individuals.
“We think the thing that makes the most sense for the most households is to invest in large-scale storage,” Mr de Brenni said.
“That’s why we’re building the largest-ever battery in Queensland’s history.
“We’ll put 12 utility-scale batteries across the state, taking our total to 19 of those publicly owned assets.
“It will make more and more sense over time, particularly as we have locally made batteries for Queenslanders to have those available.
“But they already make sense to install here in Queensland and the market is already working for Queenslanders who have rooftop solar to install a battery.”
Mr de Brenni said a 2018 scheme offering interest-free loans and rebates for solar had served its purpose and a different approach was needed moving forward.
“The program was fully acquitted and over that period of that time — we saw a significant reduction in the cost of those systems, in fact, a $4,000 reduction in the cost of those systems, so that program did its job by standing up our market,” Mr de Brenni.
“The next step that we will take to ensure that we build out a storage market in Queensland is to invest in the manufacturing of batteries here.
Batteries purchases still a ‘complicated calculation’
Michael Brear, director of the Melbourne Energy Institute at Melbourne University, said there had been an uptick in people looking to buy batteries and install solar.
“There’s been a rush of orders that have happened already in response to what’s been happening in Australian energy markets,” Professor Brear said.
“That’s a very sensible response by home owners to increased electricity prices over the next month.”
A solar battery allows you to store the energy generated from panels during the day at night, which typically you are repaid.
Professor Brear said it was a “reasonably complicated calculation” to assess whether a battery was a good investment at this stage.
“If you’re able to afford a battery, it’s probably a good thing already to put one in.
“But if you have to get a loan for the money and you have to pay that money back at a significant interest rate, the savings might be marginal, but that may change.”
Professor Brear said government support systems to incentivise solar uptake were therefore important.
“It’s to help get over the sticker shock of the upfront costs, because these things effectively have zero operating costs once you’ve installed them — it’s all about the upfront cost,” he said.
“And if you can use some kind of support from your state government or your territory government, then that’s a good thing for many home owners.”
What jurisdictions offer rebates?
Victoria, the ACT, and South Australia all have solar rebates for batteries.
However, as part of its state budget, the new South Australian government revealed it would be discontinuing its predecessor’s Home Battery Scheme — which offered $2,000 incentives to home owners willing to invest — because of poor uptake.
At a press conference last week, Premier Peter Malinauskas was asked whether he regretted axing the scheme during an energy crisis.
“Absolutely not, because no one was taking it up — there’s no point spending more good money after bad when it comes to taxpayer’s dollars in terms of energy,” Mr Malinauskas said.
“We make no apologies about withdrawing funding for programs that aren’t working and not being taken up and instead reinvest in making sure that South Australians own and operate their own generator operating for the benefit of the economy generally.”
It is a different story in the ACT, which was the first state or territory to introduce a battery rebate in 2016, offering households a rebate of $3,500 or 50 per cent of the cost to install a battery.
Earlier in June, ACT Energy Minister Shane Rattenbury hailed the scheme as a success.
“The benefits being offered to ACT households are quite generous and we’ve seen very significant uptake,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“These are all really designed to help people overcome that main problem for a lot of households which is the initial upfront cost.
“There’s no doubt the programs we’ve put in place are delivering significant ongoing savings for households and that is really important particularly when people are feeling the cost of living pressures.”
The Victorian state government expanded its solar rebate in its March budget, offering up to $3,500 for households to install a solar battery, in addition to rebates for panels and solar hot water systems.
Posted , updated