Home battery subsidisation proposal garners widespread support

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Victoria’s Independent Federal Member for Indi, Helen Haines, on Monday tabled her Cheaper Home Batteries Bill which would essentially act as a nationwide rebate for household batteries. 

The legislation would cut the upfront cost of installing a home battery system by as much as $3,000 by amending the Renewable Energy Act 2000 to include residential batteries as eligible technology, just as Australia currently does for rooftop solar panels and hot water systems. “My bill builds on this Howard government framework and updates it for the 2020s,” Haines said in her speech to parliament introducing the bill.

The proposition is similar to that put forward by Tristan Edis, Director of Analysis and Advisory at Green Energy Markets, during pv magazine’s Insight Australia event in 2021. It appears Edis has in fact been in contact with Haines, with the MP referring to expert analysis by Green Energy Markets in her speech to parliament, saying it found the bill could drive the installation of up to two million home batteries by 2030.

The proposal has garnered widespread support, with Zali Steggall, the Federal Member for Warringah who ousted Tony Abbott in 2019, seconding the bill. Since then, Atlassian tech entrepreneur and billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes applauded the move on Twitter, while the Smart Energy Council described the bill as “important.”

The exact amount Australian households could save would depend on the capacity of their installed battery as well as when they choose to install, as these both factor into how many small-scale technology certificates (STCs) the systems would be awarded.

Currently, the bill proposes determining the amount of certificates, and thus the cost cut from the initial price, by looking at the annual electricity discharge of the battery (MWh presumably) in conjunction with the estimated years the system will create renewable energy, known as a “deeming rate”. Like Australia’s rooftop solar scheme, the subsidy would drop over time. 

As it stands, a “deeming rate” of 15 years would apply for all installations before 2026, before decreasing by one year until it arrives at 11 years in 2030. 

In parliament on Monday, Haines pointed out that while around one third of Australian homes have rooftop solar, the highest uptake in the world, the number of households with batteries is less than 1%. 

“The next step in the renewable energy boom is building storage,” she said. “But, right now, batteries are too expensive. They are out of reach for most Australians.”

“Right now, a 13.5-kilowatt-hour Tesla Powerwall 2 might set you back around $15,000 all in. That’s just way too much for most Australian households to even consider. My bill could drive down that price by around $3,000.

“Under my bill, as under the existing scheme, the precise amount you will save will depend on how big your battery is and how you use it,” Haines added.

Precisely what Haines means with “how” households use their batteries isn’t entirely clear, though the MP is likely referring to whether households sign up to Virtual Power Plant (VPP) programs, which can help cut payback time for the technology. VPPs essentially aggregate fleets of residential batteries, combining their capacity to enable trading on energy spot markets and the frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) market.

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