SA government looking to expand Home Battery Scheme

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Ten months after the launch of its landmark home battery scheme, the South Australian government is looking to expand the program to include rental properties, property developers and aged care facilities. Under the scheme, 40,000 South Australians can access grants of up to $6000 to help pay for a home battery system.

The first priority will be to open up the program to the common area of apartment blocks. “We’re also looking at people who don’t have an individual electricity meter but use power, such as in some retirement villages or supported accommodation, and how those sites can participate,” said Minister for Energy Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

Acting upon a feedback it received from the community that renters want to benefit from the program, the state government said it wants to facilitate landlords and tenants to participate. Of the 2,300 subsidies that have been approved under the scheme, 11 have been for batteries for properties occupied by renters.

“With 25 per cent of South Australians renting, we know there are many more people who could be benefiting from the energy savings delivered by battery technology,” van Holst Pellekaan said. “It’s important that we work through the regulatory and other barriers to uptake – that’s why I’ve tasked my Department with progressively opening up the scheme to more customers in the future.”

The government data shows that almost 70% of customers who have purchased a battery through the scheme had solar panels before applying for the subsidy. To date, more than 1,500 batteries have been installed and another 800 are awaiting installation, meaning there is plenty of subsidies left.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, battery rebates have also had a slow start. Unlike solar PV rebates that were snapped within days, only 57 out of 200 battery rebates have been approved since the program opened on July 1, according to Solar Victoria’s live tally. In 2019-20, there will be 1,000 rebates of up to $4,838 for a solar battery system available in only 24 postcodes, including 200 battery rebates available from 1 July, 400 from 1 November and 400 from 1 March.

In South Australia, the home battery subsidy is available to all households and scaled in line with the size of the system being installed. This means that a household with a large battery providing 10kWh of storage is in line for a $5,000 or $6,000 subsidy, the latter one being reserved for concession holders – such as pensioners and low-income homes.

The $100 million in state government subsidies has been matched by up to $100 million in finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which provides low-interest loans for the balance of the battery and new solar in cases when the upfront costs of the home battery system installations are not met by the SA government subsidy. The loans are delivered through peer-to-peer lender RateSetter, which was named the exclusive administrator of the government’s battery program.

Under the scheme, South Australians are free to buy any battery they want as long as technical requirements are met for the storage system to be safe, reliable and capable of being integrated into a virtual power plant. After they committed to manufacture batteries locally, SonnenAlpha ESS, and Eguana Technologies had access to the scheme’s priority period that lasted by the end of last year. Since then, the list of battery brands has grown significantly to include: Tesla, LG Chem, Enphase, BYD, Redback, Varta, Senec, Suntech, Pylontech and Solax.