Solar Citizens blog


Launching 'Electrify Wolli Creek'

By Carolin Wenzel and Justine Lawson, Wolli Creek residents

Solar Citizens and residents of Discovery Point at Wolli Creek have teamed up to launch Electrify Wolli Creek, a community-driven initiative dedicated to exploring energy efficiency and renewable energy options for apartment living.

During the launch event, held both at the Magdalene Chapel and outside Wolli Creek railway station, residents engaged with displays and representatives, showing keen interest in sustainable energy solutions such as rooftop solar installations, EV charging infrastructure, heat pump hot water systems, and induction cooking.

Three lessons from the rooftop solar revolution for the electric vehicle transformation

The following is a speech given by Solar Citizens CEO Heidi Lee Douglas to the Parliamentary Friends of Electric Vehicles and Future Fuels Transport on Tuesday 24th, February 2024. 

My name is Heidi  Lee Douglas and I’m the CEO of Solar Citizens, an independent, community-based organisation working to protect and grow renewable energy and clean transport in Australia.

I drove here from Sydney in one of Australia’s first new affordable electric vehicles - $38,000 starting price - and do you know how much that cost me? Just $15 from my hotel charger last night. 

Australians are excited about the potential for fuel cost savings from electric vehicles.

Savings with Solar Batteries and Heat Pumps

So you’ve got solar on your roof, but your energy bills have increased alarmingly. What are the best ways to reduce your energy bill? The most effective are:

  1. Improve your home insulation (first the ceiling, then your windows)
  2. Improve your home's solar access, i.e. more sun in winter or more shade in summer
  3. Replace your gas hot water heater with an electric heat pump.
  4. Add a solar battery

Assuming you have already done what you can on #1 and #2, this blog will explore the pros and cons of getting a solar battery or heat pump.

First Nations people must be at the forefront of Australia’s renewable energy revolution

By Adam Fish and Heidi Norman
Original article published in The Conversation under Creative Commons licence

Australia’s plentiful solar and wind resources and proximity to Asia means it can become a renewable energy superpower. But as the renewable energy rollout continues, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must benefit.

Summer EV road trip: enjoying the journey and the destination

Over Summer I took an EV camping road trip through Alpine and South Coast NSW with my husband and two sons, to put our new BYD Atto through its paces.

By Heidi Lee Douglas, CEO of Solar Citizens

As Australia’s net zero transition threatens to stall, rooftop solar could help provide the power we need

By Anna Bruce, Baran Yildiz, Dani Alexander and Mike Roberts
Original article published in The Conversation under Creative Commons licence

Australia is not rolling out clean energy projects nearly fast enough to reach the Australian government’s target of 82% renewable electricity by 2030. A huge build of solar and wind farms, transmission lines and big batteries is needed. But progress is challenged by the scale required, community resistance to new infrastructure and connecting all that new renewable electricity to the grid.

In the latest obstacle to expanding renewable energy capacity in the longer term, federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek knocked back a plan by the Victorian government to build a sea terminal to service offshore wind farms, saying it posed “clearly unacceptable” environmental risks.

The roadblocks facing large projects present an opportunity to ramp up the contribution of small-scale technologies in the energy transition. Recently, federal and state energy ministers agreed on the need for a national roadmap and a co-ordinated approach to integrating into the grid what they call “consumer energy resources” (CER), which include batteries, electric vehicles and rooftop solar.

Amber for Batteries – one user’s experience

Amber for Batteries – one user’s experience

One solar citizen who switched their energy provider to Amber for Batteries has generously shared their experience from April to September in the blog below.

We live in a duplex townhouse in North Epping in Sydney’s north-western suburbs, and have been a solar-powered house for several years, starting in 2011 with a system consisting of 1.5kW/6 modules and a 4kW SMA inverter. These were the days of $0.66/kWh FiTs (Feed-in Tariffs) – thank you NSW government and AGL! This system was upgraded to a 6kW/20 modules and a 5kW SolarEdge system in April 2017, with a Tesla PW2 battery being added 4 months later, and an EV (Renault ZOE) 8 months after that. Having been an EnergyLocals/Evergen customer for several years, we changed our electricity retailer to Amber for Batteries last April, following a recommendation by Solar Citizens. We were quite happy with the EnergyLocals/Evergen combination, but the Amber offer looked interesting, particularly the management of the battery and access to wholesale prices.

Apart from having to deregister our system with Evergen, which took a couple of weeks, the change-over to Amber was trouble-free. Lots of useful information was provided, both by customer support staff and on their website. I had intended to compare the Amber charges with what EnergyLocals would have cost, but this proved to be difficult due to the different charging periods, different FiT regimes, and the change of charges for both retailers at the start of the financial year. We decided to stay with Amber for at least 6 months to give their system time to learn our power consumption habits, and us to learn about how it worked. Given what has happened with the arrival of spring in the last few days, it looks like Amber for batteries has got us worked out.

Amber for batteries has 2 modes – Earnings Optimiser and Battery Booster. The following analysis is based on observations over the last couple of weeks.

  • The Earnings Optimiser mode attempts to maximise earnings, by discharging the battery to the grid if FiTs rise above about $0.25/kWh, and provided the forecast is for sunny weather. The discharge happens early in the evening and occasionally early in the morning. If it happens in the evening, the battery will be discharged to about 30%, which leaves sufficient charge in the battery to keep the house load supplied without needing power from the grid. Our system was switched to this mode at the start of official spring on the first day of September.
  • The Battery Booster mode keeps the battery topped up, and only sends power to the grid if the FiT gets to about $1.00/kWh or more, and then only discharges a fraction of the available charge. Our system was in this mode all winter, except when we were going to be away for the night and not running the A/C to keep warm.

Both modes will occasionally charge the battery from the grid overnight, particularly if the forecast for the next day is doubtful.

The screen grabs below are a good illustration of Amber in action. They are from a free application called “Powerwall Companion”, which captures all sorts of useful historical information about the PW. These grabs show the power flows for a full day, and the level of battery storage for the same sunny day. The next day was also forecast to be sunny in the morning and partly cloudy in the afternoon. 



There was a very short feed from the battery to the grid at just after 07:00, followed by the battery being charged by sunshine from 07:15 to about 10:45, and the hot water system (a heat pump) being run from 09:00 to about the same time. The solar power was then fed to the grid attracting a FiT or cost of a couple of cents/kWh. Negative FiT – aaarrrggghhh! The sun went down at about 16:45, and at about 17:45 the battery began to feed the grid at around 4.5kW until around 19:15, until the battery had about 30% left. The FiT during this period was around $0.25/kWh.

The house load of around 0.3kW was then supplied by the battery until around 07:15 when the sunshine made its way through the fig tree foliage and onto the solar modules. 



In summary, the Amber for batteries system is very clever, and so far does the job of maximising the efficiency and benefits of our solar/battery system better than I could. I am yet to calculate the financial benefit compared to EnergyLocals/Evergen, but will tackle that when we have had a couple more months of data.

Solar Citizens Statement on the Voice to Parliament

Solar Citizens supports a ‘Yes’ vote in the upcoming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament Referendum.

Community Batteries: An Inside Look into Battery Trials

For the last few years I have been a member of the Ausgrid NIAC – the Network Innovation Advisory Committee – on behalf of Solar Citizens. This involves attending a couple of meetings a year, by use of Microsoft Teams (an alternative to zoom) for the last few years. The meetings are used by Ausgrid to describe the innovations they are investigating, and to seek feedback from the committee.

Launching the Electric Ute Roadshow

While the cities are starting to speed ahead with the shift to electric vehicles (EVs), regional Australians are paying the price at the petrol pump and missing out on affordable EVs. The petrol car lobby is trying to weaponise myths that EVs that suit the regions don’t exist to keep Australia as a dumping ground for polluting vehicles for as long as they can. 

We can’t win the policies we need to unlock affordable EVs for all Australians without the support of regions, suburbs and cities together. 

Enter: the Electric Ute Roadshow.