Cairns study sheds light on battery storage

Research by the University of Queensland, commissioned by Ergon Energy, has shed light on some of the challenges ahead for residential battery storage.

Battery storage is not yet at a price point to make it economically viable for mass uptake, according to the research, with the Australian Energy Market Operator suggesting it could be years away.

What’s more, the paper-based report said battery storage may not necessarily benefit all customers and may not be the best way to manage or reduce peak demand on our network.

Peak demand for power is a key issue for most Australian network distribution businesses, and Ergon Energy said it’s the 4-6pm peak period that puts the most stress on the network, shortening its operational lifespan and putting upward pressure on power prices.

The University’s 14-week study analysed usage patterns, load profiles and solar PV generation data from an area in Cairns, and simulated what customer bills, network revenue and peak demand impacts would be like if large numbers of customers had standard-sized battery storage devices as part of their home energy mix.

The research included complex interactions between customer bills, revenue and peak demand.

It revealed tariffs alone may not provide an incentive mechanism to reduce peak demand. It also showed, batteries to a certain penetration level could reduce peak demand and, after that, they may introduce secondary network peaks.

Other key findings indicated it was not currently economically viable for a customer to install a battery as the financial gains were negligible – the time it would take to pay-back all the set up costs, at today’s tariff rates, were just not worth it. This is especially true if customers had the State Government Solar Bonus Scheme 44c per kilowatt feed-in tariff, making it far more lucrative to sell back the electricity generated, rather than storing it in a battery during the day and using it at night.

Ergon is continuing its research and welcomes feedback from industry.