Future of the Australia electricity market is changing
According to RenewEconomy, Telstra Corporation, a large telecommunications concern in Australia, has plans to accelerate rolling out solar and battery storage options to customers. The plans to offer home energy services indicates the company will compete with Australian electricity utilities, growing an international trend.
“Solar-based generation has been available to the market for decades, but energy utilities have managed to keep their stronghold over the energy market. The downfall of solar power has been that it could not cater to nighttime electricity use — relying on the larger electricity grid to keep it going.”
Writer Giles Parkinson reports Telstra has created a project team to be led by Ben Burge, the CEO of New Zealand-based PowerShop and Meridian Energy Australia. PowerShop has made notable “inroads into the Australian energy oligopoly.” Telecom changed its trading name for trading overseas to Telstra Corporation Limited in April, 1993.
The arrival of new competitors in the home energy marketplace signals large changes in the industry, especially with the introduction of new storage technologies for renewable energy, with companies offering new avenues to the consumer energy marketplace.
“Today, the way that customers view utilities and the contemporary electricity grid continues to change. Some of these changes have been propelled by technology innovations, potentially allowing people to use electricity on their own terms, away from a monthly bill. Innovative low-cost battery systems are being manufactured by companies like Tesla and Sonnen.”
“We see energy as relevant to our Connected Home strategy, where more and more machines are connected in what is called the Internet of Things,” Telstra’s head of new business, Cynthia Whelan, says in her corporate blog.
“As technology continues to transform the way we all work and live, new developments in solar energy and storage, software and connected home are opening up ways to make energy consumption more dynamic and efficient,” said Whelan.
In response to such a competitive scenario, Mark Coughlin, head of utilities at PwC, said electricity utilities, are facing their “Kodak moment” as the emergence of rooftop solar, in combination with battery storage and smart software, shift the power from the utility to the customer.
Telcos such as Telstra may prove to be be better suited at consumer service than energy utilities, which have historically operated without strong customer service models. “This traditional utility model where the company controls the ‘electrons’ and the consumer has little choice is on its last legs – this model is struggling to meet customer needs,” Coughlin has said.
Burge said it was the desire to save money, and “stick it to the incumbents” which is driving people to shift to solar and consider batteries, especially as they become more economically attractive. The outspoken CEO has accused incumbent energy companies of using hidden fees, confusing tariffs, loyalty penalties and other such strategies to “enslave” customers.
Telstra has invested large sums in solar and battery storage. It is considered a pioneer of battery storage technology, using it for remote telecommunications network. Today Telstra uses solar and storage on numerous rural and regional exchange buildings.
Whether or not utility customers switch to a new clean energy and storage model remains to be seen.
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