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Battery storage technology has the potential to reshape not just the energy and transport sectors but also the upcoming Australian federal election, according to a new report.
The Australia Institute report Securing Renewables: How Batteries Solve the Problem of Clean Electricity includes polling indicating that 71% of Australians would be more likely to vote for a party that supported distributed small-scale solar and storage.
Based on a national opinion poll of 1,412 people undertaken between February and March 2016, the study also found 63% of respondents would be more likely to support a party that aims to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and that 45% would be more likely to support a party that attempts to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles.
“The combination of batteries paired with variable renewable energy such as solar and wind can now provide security of electricity supply, with zero emissions,” says the author of the report, Australia Institute strategist Dan Cass.
The report found that one in four Australians wish to create and store power in order to unplug from the grid and that 80% of the 1.5m Australian households to have already invested in rooftop solar are considering the purchase of batteries.
It also noted that the predicted boom in electric cars could see households using such vehicles when parked and plugged in as storage providers for the wider energy network.
According to Cass, growing interest and falling prices for energy storage technology, most of which currently involve lithium batteries, means it may become an increasingly significant political issue.
“Energy has been an election issue in Australia in the past and the massive popularity of this technology makes it an opportunity for savvy politicians to gain support,” he says.
“Solar households are paid so much less for the power they export than the power they are sold by retailers that they may be driven off-grid and this is a major policy and political problem.
“Akin to a supermarket chain charging families for growing their own vegetables, the power industry continues to seek compensation for independent power production.
“The federal government needs to work with the clean energy sector to quickly to unleash competition from storage while also ensuring safety standards for all battery technologies, to protect consumers and give the industry confidence to invest.”
The report found that a key driver for the uptake of storage systems would be the expiry this year of state based feed-in tariffs, particularly premium tariffs that pay solar households up to 60c/kWh.
This year Victoria’s Transitional and Standard Net metering program, South Australia’s Customer Group 4 Net metering program and New South Wales $0.60/kWh and $0.20/kWh Solar Bonus Scheme are all scheduled to expire.
The report will be distributed at the Australian Energy Storage Conference and Exhibition, which runs from 1 June in Sydney.
The conference is being organised by the Australian Energy Storage Alliance, featuring 45 speakers discussing topics ranging from off-grid telecommunications solar plus storage projects to grid resiliency and microgrid lessons learned in the US from MW-scale flow battery deployments.
AESA industry executive Mary Hendriks tells Guardian Australia the issues highlighted in the report are of national importance.
“It is such a significant issue for Australia and for the ability of Australians to take advantage of in terms of jobs and the economy,” she says. “It should be above the two parties, both should be interested.”
Discussion of battery storage technology has been limited in the initial stages of the election campaign. The Coalition, which has a renewable energy target of 23% by 2020, last week promised to provide 10 community groups across regional Tasmania with $100,000 towards installing solar and battery storage.
Labor, which is targeting 50% renewable energy by 2030, has pledged to develop an industry strategy to ensure Australia participates in the energy storage industry emerging globally.
The Greens this month pledged a five-year support package for battery storage technology that would be rolled out to 1.2m homes and 30,000 businesses.
Estimated to cost $2.9bn, the Greens propose to fund the scheme by scrapping concessions to fossil fuel-intensive industries, a key plank in the party’s plan to reach a 90% renewable energy target for 2030.