Labor’s household battery plan could ‘tip the market’ for the battery industry

Updated November 22, 2018 20:30:25

Battery company Sonnen says federal Labor’s plan to introduce battery subsidies could “tip the market” for household batteries and propel it into the same sphere as household solar systems.

Key points:

  • SA battery scheme took effect last month and provides subsidies of up to $6,000
  • Federal Labor Party announced a similar policy, promising subsidies of up to $2,000
  • Battery company said two subsidies could be a game-changer for Australia’s battery industry

The German company is expected to begin manufacturing household battery systems in the next few weeks at the former Holden factory in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

Sonnen is one of three battery manufacturers to announce plans to set up shop in Adelaide in the wake of the South Australian Liberal Government’s plans to subsidise household batteries.

The South Australian scheme, which took effect last month, provides subsidies of between $500 and $6,000 for homes which install battery systems to store power from household photovoltaic solar systems.

Releasing its energy policy on Thursday, the federal Labor Party adopted a similar policy to South Australia’s Liberal Government, promising subsidies of up to $2,000 for households earning less than $180,000 a year to install battery systems.

According to Sonnen, the combination of the two subsidies could prove a game-changer for Australia’s relatively small battery industry.

“We think the combination is going to be brilliant and we think it will tip the market over into becoming a commodity market,” company managing director Marc Sheldon said.

“So we expect this to become a general installation like the solar rooftops have become.”

Mr Sheldon said while the South Australian subsidy had helped seal the deal for Sonnen to manufacture in Adelaide, the battery maker had bigger plans to build 10,000 batteries a year at the former car factory to service the Australian and Asia Pacific markets.

“The key driver for us to come out to South Australia was not only the subsidies, but the energy market itself and the way it’s structured here in South Australia, and the penetration of solar rooftop installations here,” he said.

Home battery systems typically retail at between $8,000 and $15,000 in Australia, depending on the size of the system.

Mr Sheldon said while batteries were not for everyone, a higher take-up would eventually drive down prices.

“It’s our expectation that higher volumes will accelerate that drop in cost,” he said.

‘Imitation is the greatest form of flattery’

Premier Steven Marshall agreed that household batteries were the way of the future and said the state needed to have household battery storage.

But he said the policy announced by the federal Labor Party today was only a “watered-down” version of what was already available in South Australia.

“I think imitation is the greatest form of flattery,” he said.

“I think it’s a slightly watered-down scheme from what we’re offering here in South Australia … it’s going to taken Bill Shorten several years to implement.

“We’ve got a household subsidy of up to $6,000 and it’s available right now.”

The subsidy program in South Australia has already received praise, with homeowner Susan Packer delighted with the Sonnen battery installed at her home last week.

“We figured if we had the batteries we can use our own battery before we have to start using stuff off the grid,” she said.

“We’re hoping it significantly reduces them [bills] to either pretty minimal, if not zero because we’re not using the amount of power we’re producing.

“Battery capacity is 100 per cent so even on a day like today — where we’ve had intermittent rain and cloud — we still generated enough power to be stored in the battery.”

Ms Packer said she believed if people could afford getting the batteries installed, it would definitely be beneficial for households in the long run.

Topics: environment, alternative-energy, electricity-energy-and-utilities, solar-energy, wind-energy, states-and-territories, adelaide-5000, sa

First posted November 22, 2018 19:51:12