SA bushfire victims to get free sonnen batteries


South Australians who are rebuilding their homes in the wake of cataclysmic bushfires will be offered free battery storage systems through a program launched by the state government and German battery manufacturer sonnen. The program will cover all 188 families who lost homes in the devastating fires provided they include rooftop solar in their rebuilds.

Minister for Energy Dan van Holst Pellekaan said on Tuesday that installing a battery as part of the rebuild will help make bushfire victims new homes more sustainable, more resilient and allow them to access cheaper electricity. “People who lost their homes in the fires need a helping hand to re-establish themselves and a battery worth more than $10,000 will reduce their future electricity bills whilst adding value to their new home,” he said.

The initiative will also ensure energy security for properties located in vulnerable or remote parts of the grid. “Kangaroo Island and parts of the Adelaide Hills can have outages due to storms, so rebuilding with batteries will make households more energy resilient by improving reliability and affordability,” van Holst Pellekaan said.

For sonnen, which set up an assembly and production facility at the former Holden car manufacturing site in Adelaide in 2018, the program is an opportunity to support the wider South Australian community rebuild after the fires. “This initiative will help add significant value to those rebuilding their homes, alleviating pressures of energy costs and provide them with the control to manage their energy needs more independently,” Sonnen Australia CEO Nathan Dunn said.

Sonnen’s decision to establish the local manufacturing plant came with the launch of the South Australian government’s Home Battery Scheme, which plans to see 40,000 home batteries installed across the state. While the subsidy uptake is reported to have increased in recent months, participants in the scheme have cut their electricity bills significantly, sometimes to almost nothing, according to van Holst Pellekaan.

In another community rebuild initiative stretching across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the Resilient Energy Collective is looking to install stand-alone solar and battery systems at up to 100 sites affected by recent bushfires and floods. Funded by the Cannon-Brookes family, the venture is rolling out pre-fabricated solar arrays manufactured by Sydney-based 5B and Tesla batteries in communities disconnected from the electricity grid.

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