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.
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
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.
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.
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.
At its heart, Solar Citizens’ mission is to reduce carbon pollution and build a fairer energy system for all Australians. At the core of those goals are the values of protecting this land’s precious ecosystems, safeguarding our way of life from the impacts of climate change, and building a brighter future for everyone.
Right now Queenslanders are facing a cost of living crisis while dealing with the worsening impacts of climate change. Fast-tracking the rollout of renewable energy, and ensuring clean and affordable energy is accessible to everyone, is a key solution to manage both pressing challenges.
Solar citizens across Queensland are calling for the Queensland Government to invest in the below initiatives in addition to the commitments made in the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan.
Summer has arrived and with it, the heatwaves, severe storms and extreme weather. During the summer months, I struggle to keep my poorly insulated Queenslander cool as temperatures soar - not helped by the fact that geckos ate the wiring in my air conditioning. But despite this I'm still one of the lucky ones.