New incentives for home batteries to help create a network of home energy systems

Zero interest finance is being offered by Brighte to households willing to install a home battery and join a virtual power plant.

Green lender Brighte is offering zero interest finance to households willing to install a home battery and join Origin Energy's Loop VPP, a network of home solar and battery systems.

Under a new agreement with Origin, Brighte’s network of accredited vendors and installers will offer finance to households to join the VPP. It's part of a broader push to accelerate the uptake of home batteries in Australia.

The Origin Loop VPP uses smart software to manage supply and demand across more than 130,000 connected devices around Australia – mostly home solar and battery systems.

To encourage homes with solar to join the VPP, Origin already dangles a $1,500 sign-up bonus for customers who install a Sungrow, Tesla or LG battery, so long as they connect it to the Loop, and agree to discharge stored energy to the grid at times of peak demand.

A smaller $400 sign-up bonus is being offered to customers with a battery already installed.

The new deal with Brighte is a further enticement to join. It will cut the upfront costs of purchasing a battery through zero interest finance and give households time to fully appreciate the bill savings they can get from solar and storage.

It's expected to be particularly attractive to solar households looking to maximise their rooftop power generation as the cost of electricity from the grid heads higher, yet again.

“We’re always working on new opportunities for our vendors to grow their business and look at ways to accelerate battery uptake across Australia,” said Brighte founder and CEO Katherine McConnell.

“This partnership will make a big difference in helping bring down the costs of batteries and helping households take ownership of their power supply, especially at a time when energy bills are high.”

Brighte says its network of more than 2,000 vendors will be activated to quote and install batteries for the Origin VPP, and will further cement Brighte’s position in Australia’s home energy market.

McConnell says their “off the shelf” solution can be quickly customised and rapidly deployed in different jurisdictions "to make clean energy accessible and affordable for all Australians.”

A virtual power plant connects thousands of energy sources to work together. Image:

For Origin – which alongside being one of Australia’s big three gentailers is one of the country’s biggest installers of rooftop solar – anything to boost participation in its VPP is a good thing.

Origin revealed its goal is to grow the Loop VPP to 2,000MW, as part of a “strategy refresh” following its decision to fast-track the closure of its Eraring coal plant to 2015. Eraring is Australia's largest coal plant and was originally scheduled to close in 2032.

Origin CEO Frank Calabria has previously said harnessing rooftop solar, battery storage and demand management resources, along with heat pumps and electric vehicles installed in its customer base, could deliver “very low cost” replacement capacity to Eraring.

“A VPP is a capital and cost-efficient tool to create capacity,” Origin’s presentation said at the time. “VPP assets tend to have very low or even zero upfront capital cost to establish.”

Calabria says a VPP can be used just like a peaking power plant, which provide electricity at times of high demand, but a VPP can avoid the cost of hedging contracts, one of the most expensive products in the electricity market.

At scale, a very large number of "distributed assets" like batteries and rooftop solar, can be controlled in a similar way to a big battery, either by moving energy or reducing peak energy.

Origin says the networking of distributed assets will help replace part of the capacity provided by Eraring and also "firm renewable assets at a very low cost.”

The firming of energy is the process of ensuring a reliable and consistent power supply from intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar, to maintain a stable and continuous electricity supply.

An earlier version of this article appeared in One Step off the Grid. You can read it here.

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