There is no doubt that Australia is going to be at the leading edge of battery storage, due to the huge number of solar panels already on household rooftops, high electricity costs (particularly network charges), and excellent solar resources.
But there is more to why so many global battery storage developers are targeting Australia as their first big market, making it a test case for the world. It is also about the unique approach Australians have to their energy supplies, a healthy cynicism about the incumbent utilities, and a yearning for energy independence.
Australia, according to Greg Bourne, the chairman of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, is about to enter the “iPhone” moment in battery storage.
“It would appear that energy storage has arrived,” Bourne told the Australian Energy Storage conference in Sydney. “Of course, it’s been around for quite some time in some form or other, but just as 2007 was the iPhone moment, 2015 might be seen as the Tesla moment."
Bourne was referring to the period in 2007 when Apple came out with the first touch-screen smartphone. The market for iPhones and similar models has exploded ever since.
“When the taxi driver starts talking about battery storage, you’d better start listening,” he said. “A lot of them know about storage, because they drive Prius cars and other hybrid electrics.”
Bourne says the battery storage market is at a similar point, highlighted by plunging costs and consumer-focused aesthetics introduced by Tesla.
“The Tesla Powerwall begins to look like a consumer product with desirable features to it,” Bourne said in an interview. “It says, ‘I want to work with you.'"
“We are going to see this industry grow in a way that most people will be so surprised," he said.
According to Kane Thornton, the CEO of the Clean Energy Council, Australians’ have a unique notion of independence and a lack of trust in utilities. Return on investment also comes into it. But strict economics may be further down the list.
Thornton says the consumer base in Australia is reasonably cynical about utilities. They like the idea of energy independence and are becoming increasingly energy-literate.
And given that some 250,000 households across Australia are about to move from premium feed-in tariffs to so-called fair-value solar tariffs, they have a further incentive to invest in batteries.
“You don’t need to be a genius to see where there is a value proposition for storage in that market,” Thornton said.
When taxi drivers and sheep farmers start talking about batteries, that's a sign of a market shift.
“There is a romance factor about this technology. My taxi driver was telling me about battery storage technology; my dad, a sheep farmer, was talking about it. People are excited about it.”
This piece was originally published at RenewEconomy and was reprinted with permission.