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Australians want ‘relief from the grid’ as home battery consumption hits record high

Australian households hit by rising electricity prices are increasingly turning to batteries as well as solar power to reduce their reliance on the grid, with a growing number of new systems being installed in the past year.

key points:

  • Solar energy consultant Sunviz says home battery installations grew 55 percent last year to 47,000
  • Growth was a record for Australia, where more than 3 million residential customers have solar
  • Sunviz says rising power prices have contributed to the growth

Figures from industry advocate Sunwiz show that last year more than 47,000 residential batteries were installed nationwide as the energy market went into recession and prices soared for millions of customers.

This was a jump of 55 per cent over the previous year.

Sunwiz notes that one battery was installed for every seven solar systems added to the network during 2022, compared to one battery installed for every 12 new solar installations a year ago.

SunWiz said around 180,000 Australian homes now had battery systems.

It noted that it is “still a long way from 3 million homes with solar panels”.

Record uptake of household batteries, coupled with strong ongoing demand for rooftop solar, helped push Australia’s renewable energy generation share to historic highs last year.

Along with production from large-scale projects such as wind and solar farms, green sources made up about 40 percent of the electricity generated in the national electricity market.

Sunwiz boss Warwick Johnson says the batteries provide financial shelter to consumers. (ABC News)

The family is ‘taking back the power’

SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnson said a number of factors were adding up to fuel relatively sluggish interest in home energy storage.

He said many are trying to shield themselves from the volatility caused by crises such as the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a sharp rise in energy prices.

Mr Johnson said many people were also concerned about rising greenhouse gas emissions and wanted to reduce their production.

He said householders were getting the batteries “in an effort to increase their energy independence, flexibility and self-reliance”.

“With electricity prices skyrocketing, this data shows Australian households and businesses are withdrawing power from the energy system by turning to cheaper, renewable sources of energy,” Mr Johnson said.

“We are seeing an unprecedented number of batteries being added across the country.

He said that by installing solar batteries, the free energy generated by the sun can be stored for later use.

“Homes and businesses installed with solar and storage are guaranteed lower electricity bills, which will be a relief for many as we head into winter,” he added.

According to Sunwiz, all states except South Australia saw record increases in battery installations in the 12 months to 31 December, led by the most populous states of Victoria and New South Wales.

Elon Musk has led efforts to market the home battery. (Reuters: Patrick T Fallon)

demand ‘quadruple’

However, South Australia still had the largest number of battery systems per head of population.

SunWiz predicted that the number of battery systems — and the rate of adoption — would continue to increase in the coming years as battery prices remained stable or fell even as electricity prices increased.

And it said that would be accelerated by a multitude of state government incentives, ranging from interest-free loans in the ACT to thousands of dollars being waived in NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

Despite the forecast, SunWiz acknowledged that the time it would take for homes to recoup the costs of installing solar panels and batteries was more than 11 years from 2020.

In contrast, businesses that installed both technologies faced shorter payback periods, falling from more than seven years in 2021 to just 5.7 years at the end of 2022.

While Mr Johnson said the cost of batteries was still a deterrent for many, others argued the case was already stacked.

Cairns resident Simon Thompson said he was inspired to install the battery system after moving to tropical north Queensland and receiving his first electricity bill.

Battery ‘relief from the grid’

Mr Thompson said he was shocked by the $800 invoice for the quarter, and pledged to reduce his exposure to the grid, taking into account the need for electricity in Cairns’ hot and humid conditions.

“It’s a big upfront cost,” Mr Thompson said.

“But it has allowed us to have a negative bill.

“So, whenever I get the bill, I really look forward to it.

“Currently, our bill is negative $4 to $16 per month. And best of all, my bill goes down when electricity prices go up.”

The 52-year-old said he hoped more homes would get storage systems, particularly in areas such as North Queensland where power supplies were at risk of becoming vulnerable.

“Having a battery gives you peace of mind,” he said.

“And we feel independent off the grid, too.

“I guess we feel a little rebellious … when everyone is battling a hot night and we have the air-con running … it’s kind of cool.”

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