By Darryn Van Hout
Let’s be honest, the cost of electricity has made a huge contribution to the high cost of living and the difficulties Australian families experience in balancing their family budgets. According to a survey carried out by Ernst & Young in October 2014, a third of all Australians missed a payment for their electricity usage in the last 12 months.
The fact of the matter is that Australians are hurting and power bills should no longer be a political opportunity for politicians to win votes but a serious concern necessitating realistically lasting solutions. In essence, not even the compensation for households that are least able to afford the rising power prices can have a long-term impact.
In the past five years, electricity prices have skyrocketed by as much as 40 per cent in some states of Australia. When you compare these statistics with other countries like Canada, the United States, the European Union, and Japan, Australian electricity bills are way too high as reported by the Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA), something the Federal Government blatantly acknowledged but has failed to address.
The significantly high power prices are generally considered to be fueled by three key factors: deregulation, infrastructure costs/network charges, and introduction of the carbon tax. Despite government efforts to mitigate the high cost of living pressures, electricity bills keep increasing. The good news is that the most sustainable solution to lowering power bills in Australia ultimately lies on the 1.3 million Australian household rooftops. One of Australia’s leading consumer care websites, Australian Solar Quotes*, reports that despite the withdrawal of political support, the uptake of rooftop solar panels is continuing to rise, even in the current economic climate. Is the trend a result of Australia’s earlier solar boom or do the good folks of Australia have little choice but to resort to solar power as an alternative?
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in five Australian households uses solar energy to power their electrical appliances. Even though the cost savings for investment in solar power are clear, this figure is still surprisingly low considering that the installation of a solar power system is a sure way to reduce a householder’s dependence on the grid with a zero power bill as a real possibility with the latest technological advances.
As mentioned, there are three main factors that result in high electricity prices in Australia. The first is network charges, which in fact account for up to 51% of the total cost of electricity. Next is the cost of transporting the high-priced, premium electricity across poles and wires. Lastly, let’s not forget the subsidies paid by Australians to support renewable energy also contribute to the high power costs. The introduction of the now scrapped carbon tax also had a significant impact on power prices, coming in at 9%.
Fierce competition among energy suppliers forms a vital part of the answer. Many of these companies are global, operating in export markets, and if their electricity prices are forced up, the consequences would be far reaching in terms of loss of jobs, investment, etc.
The federal government acknowledges that power bills are likely to keep rising due to the huge investments needed to maintain network infrastructure. This means that ever-rising electricity prices will still hurt Australian households and impact negatively on businesses.
How Solar Storage Next-Gen Technology is Revolutionizing the Energy Market
As the debate about the factors driving up power prices wages on, renewable energy product manufacturers are busy developing new technologies to drive down electricity prices. With the emergence of innovative solar energy solutions such as lithium-ion batteries, solar storage batteries are poised to dramatically reshape the energy industry in Australia.
A study commissioned by UBS, a world-leading investment bank, reveals that solar plus storage is an economically sustainable and low-risk solution for Australian households. For instance, if one million Australian households invest $20 billion in solar storage systems today, this would translate to enough capital for setting up a new LNG export plant.
The emergence of cost-competitive solar storage batteries such as Tesla’s new storage battery is a real revolution for the Australian electricity industry. This advanced battery storage system is poised to have a great impact on utilities, depending upon on how they react. If they embrace it as an opportunity to reduce high power prices, they can provide zero-down solar and battery storage installations to their consumers, thus pushing down costs for Australian households. On the other hand, they can view it as a threat and actively oppose this being launched in the Australian market.
The Tesla Powerwall has the potential to make a huge impact in the global energy industry and is indeed a timely innovation. The lithium-ion battery is one-of-a-kind. It’s designed to enable rechargeable energy storage at residential levels that can be used for load shifting, backing up power for use during an outage, and enabling self-consumption at peak times.
The solar storage battery by Tesla is a step forward for the Australian energy market. As the storage battery is a cheaper (inclusive of the foreign exchange and shipping) and highly efficient option compared to the existing solar power systems in the domestic market, it’s likely to significantly reduce dependence on the grid with a relatively quick payback period.
The new Powerwall from Tesla’s leading US-based energy technology company is an easy-to-handle wall-mounted solar storage unit which can hold a maximum of 10 kWh, delivered at an average of 2 kWh each day. The solution to the high power prices to Australian consumers lies in this innovative solar battery technology.
The price of a 10kWh weekly cycling backup storage system will be $US3,500 and $US3,000 is the price for a 7kWh daily cycling Powerwall. This excludes the cost of inverter (which typically comes with the solar panel system) and installation costs. Everything together is approximately US$500 per kWh, which is way below the existing industry cost which ranges between $US1,000 and $US1,250/kWh. Clearly, there’s great potential for dramatic storage battery cost reduction in coming years, just as the cost of solar panels has plunged in recent years.
The Tesla storage battery’s cost will ultimately deliver power for about $6-8 cents per kWh to any solar system for every Australian household. The combined cost of the rooftop solar and Tesla’s lithium-ion storage will therefore be much cheaper when compared to the coal-fired power delivered via the national grid.
With the new technology, eliminating grid dependence will become a reality for Australian households and high electricity costs will be a thing of the past. Solar + batteries have already been embraced in areas with high electricity prices like Hawaii. Although at the crossroads with incumbent utility companies, Tesla’s solar storage battery has a bright future in the Australian market.
The lithium-ion batteries will see more Australian households maximizing the amount of self-consumption. At the traditional end of power generation, the existing business models based on coal-fired power stations and huge networks of wires and poles will be seriously challenged.
Why Australian Households Should Invest in Tesla’s Solar Storage Battery
Solar + storage is particularly attractive in Australia due to its climate. The idea of generating one’s own electricity and storing it for use at a later time is attractive to Australian households. Solar, compared to other forms of power generation, is cost-effective and convenient with the only big constraint being the availability of adequate space for the panels.
The disadvantage of solar energy is that the sun reaches the panels for only a limited number of hours each day and solar power generation is inconsistent. The storage battery enables the power requirements and pattern of usage of the household to better match power generation.
Before the invention of Tesla’s lithium-ion storage battery, storage was relatively expensive and consumer unfriendly, mostly involving less efficient, heavy, lead-acid batteries requiring more space. However, lithium-ion batteries including Tesla’s PowerWall are changing that. With their costs likely to fall sharply in the near future, more and more Australian households will enjoy the unique features of these batteries:
- Much lighter
- Occupy less space
- Discharged virtually at a constant voltage
- Hold charge for extended periods of time
It’s worth noting that Australian households are likely to enjoy reduced power prices through Tesla’s new technology only if the federal government and other stakeholders in the energy industry scale up production of lithium-ion battery housings, energy monitoring, storage battery management systems, and integrated manufacturing of solar energy components including inverters. Whether they take up that challenge, only time will tell.
*This article was kindly sponsored by Australian Solar Quotes.