Western Australia has a well-established reputation for innovation in the use of distributed energy resources (DER). Western Power has led the national development of inverter standards and Horizon Power is a global leader in the use of microgrids. The latest groundbreaking innovation from WA is a community battery business model, led by the electricity retailer, Synergy, in partnership with the Western Power distribution network using batteries supplied by Tesla.
The basic idea is to connect a ‘medium-sized’ battery (around one hundred hours of kWh) to the distribution network near the low voltage transformers. Instead of customers owning batteries, they can pay to share the neighbourhood’s battery. Customers can store excess solar energy generated during the day and withdraw it at night. Customers save money on peak power prices and it’s much cheaper than buying individual household batteries. Community batteries also help networks manage voltage and can save them money when installed on parts of the grid due for an upgrade. Because networks save money, costs to all electricity customers are reduced – even for customers that don’t participate in the community battery program. The program can be offered to both renters and homeowners, including people renting high-rise apartments, as there is no need to find a space for a battery within the home.
WA will continue to lead the use of community batteries for the foreseeable future. Policies to simplify the development of community battery projects are expected from WA’s DER Roadmap, which will be published next year. Regulations in the National Electricity Market, unfortunately, make it very complicated to set up community batteries in the eastern states.
In other good news, WA introduced legislation to Parliament last week to facilitate the use of stand-alone power systems and energy storage devices on Western Power’s network, allowing for the costs to be recovered through regulated tariffs. WA is the first state in Australia to introduce this legislation, which will ultimately provide substantial benefits to all energy consumers, especially in regional areas.