Big problem with solar laid bare

Solar Panels
Governments must work together to develop rebate schemes to help households bring more solar storage online. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Enrique Ascui

Governments must work together to develop rebate schemes to help households bring more solar storage online and should consider how electric vehicles can be used to strengthen the system, a senate committee has been told.

Industry leaders told the inquiry on Wednesday that while Australia has had a great take-up of home solar, there has been a lag in building up the country’s battery storage network that experts say is holding the country back.

Without adequate storage options – whether they be community batteries, distributor owned, government-subsidised private batteries or a better integration of electric vehicle infrastructure – Master Electricians Australia warned that every solar panel on a roof “without storage to firm it up, is actually making the problem worse”.

“ … In terms of grid instability during the day with oversupply, and making the peak worse,” Chris Lehmann said.

“I think the possibility that we can utilise electric vehicles with acid batteries to be able to help further the grid by fast-tracking the use of bi-directional EV tariffs could actually be quite a quick win to the grid.”

Solar Panels
A senate committee has been told there needs to be more support to bring batteries online to store residential solar energy. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Enrique Ascui

He said grid storage batteries in remote locations should be consider, and suggested sporting facilities could be “the perfect place” to put community batteries.

“I think at the moment we’re really missing an opportunity by not bringing the consumer in on the journey,” he said.

“Every consumer that puts a battery on the side of the house and adds to storage on the grid is going to make the problem less every single day.”

Professor Lachlan Blackhall from ANU told the inquiry battery storage would help Australia’s energy transition in a number of ways, but the country needed to prioritise community batteries.

“Battery storage can soak up excess generation, can provide it back, can provide services for voltage stability … and provide services to the grid to support frequency stability,” he said.

The government was also warned not to be “strata blind” when developing electrification policies more broadly.

The Electric Vehicle Association told the inquiry subsidies for strata-run apartment complexes must be rolled out, especially to support smaller and medium-sized apartment complexes.

Strata companies should be better supported to integrate EV technology. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Naomi Jellicoe

The number of people living in strata-managed apartment buildings is currently around 2.5 million nationally and growing.

And with EV take-up also rapidly increasing, the group said it was “likely that most vehicles housed in class two (apartment) buildings will be plug-ins within two decades or less”.

As such, they said it was “essential” government policy target this sector, and could do so by providing subsidies on a “per-lot” basis to owner’s corporations, in addition to any subsidies for stand-alone houses.

They encouraged the federal government to promote the NSW EV Ready Program nationally, which committed $10m to co-fund with owners’ corporations EV charging into buildings with 100 or more car spaces, with lot owners only having to pay for the final charge point in a similar fashion to those with detached dwellings.

The Owners Corporation Network of Australia said governments needed to develop a “coherent national strategy” for the energy transition in the residential strata sector.

They said the government must provide owners with financial incentives and greater assistance to accelerate electric vehicle charging stations, solar, and gas replacement.