The Canberra Times
March 22, 2024
James Curtis FAIM GAICD
Battery storage the next green energy frontier

As Government and large organisations grapple with the realities of delivering renewable energy as part of the energy transition and meeting the net zero targets, its essential we leave no one behind. But unless we act soon, households and small businesses will be left behind, and while they may not be the largest emitters of CO2 or greatest energy consumers, they stand as a powerful force for democratising energy resilience. The good news is Australians are already on board and are open to green energy to heat water, power tools and increasingly, drive them around. In fact, Australians have shown globally we are leaders in taking up the challenge with one in three homes hosting solar panels and more than 300,000 households and businesses installing rooftop solar in 2023, the equivalent of 3.1GW of capacity.

It may not have been a planned campaign, but with the steady stream of government subsidies, improvement in solar technology, price reduction and opportunity to sell back to the grid, we arguably took up the challenge well before the current climate-change energy rush. But at time when cost of living and access to essential services are causing increased household and small business pressures, many concrete green energy actions have dropped down the list of priorities. But given our uptake of solar panels, the opportunity now and some would argue the imperative is battery storage. To date, much hype has been focused on the big end of town and the utility-scale clean energy facilities. However, despite $4.9 billion of new financial commitments to large-scale storage in 2023, more than double that of 2022, there's been a slowdown in new financial commitments to utility-scale generation.

The 2030 renewable target deadline looms over governments as part of the transition but there is an ally in households and small businesses who stand ready, powered up for batteries to be integrated into the grid and maximise rooftop solar benefits. The challenge is not one of minds or developing an advertising campaign, noting mandatory reporting hitting companies, it's an economic hip-pocket battle that threatens to create an energy divide for Australians. The reality is that the cost of battery storage as the next frontier remains out of reach for households and small businesses battling to balance the daily books. You need to have the cash or access to capital to access the benefit, and for many that stretch is becoming too great, particularly if you're purchasing a new EV.

While the cost of battery storage is coming down and the choice increasing, incentivis-ing the uptake of battery storage as part of the residential and business solution through subsidies and regulatory change will reduce the load facing governments and corporates to meet targets. We've seen movers on this front with some governments offering small incentives, like Queensland's Battery Booster program and the Australian Energy Market Commission is also taking critical steps on a broad range of reforms to enable households and businesses to have better control over their energy bills. However, with only one in eight households forecast to having either a battery or EV by 2030, there is a significant opportunity to supercharge households and businesses as part of the battery-driven solution for a renewable energy network. It's households and small businesses who remain up for the challenge to meet our goals, we just need to empower them.