South Australian householders advised to plug in a battery rather than solar panels

With renewable energy sources producing more than 100% of the state's electricity demand, South Australian householders may be better off buying a battery, charging up during the day, and discharging at night.

South Australia leads the world with the penetration of wind and solar in its grid. 

It regularly reaches levels where renewable energy sources produce more than 100% of the state’s electricity demand. 

Renewable energy penetration rates are so high in South Australia that ‘solar sponge tariffs’ have now been introduced to try and encourage people to use energy during the middle of the day.

And while householders in most states of Australia are best off to put solar panels on their roofs if they want security over their energy costs, in South Australia they may be better off installing a battery rather than solar panels. 

That’s the advice of Merrily Hunter, the CEO of Mac Trade Services, an energy efficiency and renewable energy company she founded a decade ago.

“We're saying actually you might be better off just putting a battery into your home, plugging that in and charging it during the middle of the day and discharging it at night,” Merrily Hunter told the SwitchedOn podcast.

“Because the price of power versus the feed in tariffs [for solar] that are available, [batteries are] a far more economical solution.”

MacTrade Services is a ‘one stop shop’ for electrification that started in SouthAustralia and now also operates in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. They retrofit around 5000 homes and businesses every year with air conditioners, electric hot water heat pumps, solar, batteries, EV chargers – basically every appliance that comes under the electrification banner.

South Australia's grid is now largely powered by renewable energy sources like the Bungalla solar farm (Image: Enel Energy)

Hunter believes that the changing nature of the South Australia grid will also have an impact on solar installers in South Australia.

“I would be worried if I had a solar PV business that was only selling solar PV because it feels like unless you're pivoting to batteries, and to EV chargers as well, which is a complementary technology to the battery storage, you're going to face a Kodak moment very soon.” 

Hunter says that tradespeople are on the front line for energy efficiency and are a critical influence on which appliances consumers purchase. 

She says that one of the big problems Australia faces as it scales up its electrification journey is the quality of some of the electric appliances is not good. 

“There's a lot of shitty stock on the market at the moment that's been pushed to customers," says Hunter.

There’s also technology such as modern energy efficient heat pumps that some tradespeople won’t recommend because the old heat pumps they are familiar with were noisy and inefficient.

“Heat pumps haven't been the best technology in the past. It's come a long way… [they don’t] have the problems that a lot of the old heat pumps used to have.”

Hunter also warns that rolling out high subsidy schemes to get electric appliances installed quickly could risk further problems for consumers.

“You will always get people that are taking advantage of [subsidy schemes] to put in the cheapest product there is, and unknowing consumers relying on the company that have come in to do the right thing by them.”

“The only way to stamp out poor quality appliances is by heavy regulation in what appliances actually meet the eligibility criteria,” says Hunter.

She also recommends strong regulations to ensure only quality energy efficient products are installed under subsidy schemes, including random audits of installations.

“Unless somebody is actually checking that those energy standards or energy saving claims are what they are, with the end product that's actually being installed, you end up getting poor products installed on the programs.”

 

You can hear the full interview with Merrily Hunter on the SwitchedOn Australia podcast here.

Author
Anne Delaney
SwitchedOn Editor
June 4, 2024
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