As many Australians already know, solar panels are a great way to save money on your energy bills, but could they one day allow you to disconnect from the grid entirely? According to a 2015 report by the Climate Council, reductions in the price of batteries could mean that going off-grid is no more expensive than staying connected by as early as 2018. The Climate Council predicts that half of all Australian households could soon begin using a solar installation that includes battery storage, allowing them to let go of their dependence on the national electricity grid.
Battery Prices are Falling Fast
According to analyst Rob Koh, the cost of a 7kWh battery storage system could fall by 50% by 2018. Developments in lithium-ion battery technology, driven partly by the demand for batteries for electric cars, have dragged down the cost of production. Meanwhile, the costs of shipping and mounting batteries in homes are also falling. By 2018, using a battery to store solar energy could be a cost-effective solution for all Australian households, not just those that are forced to remain off-grid due to their remote locations.
The Cost of Grid Electricity is Rising
Australians pay more for their electricity than residents of most other developed nations, which could be a major factor driving the growth of off-grid solar installations in this country. The Climate Council report predicts that Australia will soon be the world's number one market for home battery energy storage systems.
The Benefits of Fewer Power Lines
The desire for residents in remote locations to go off-grid could have a surprising benefit: fewer bushfires. According to Darren Gladman from the Clean Energy Council, electricity poles and wires raise the risk of bushfires in areas that are already prone to blazes. He suggests that small communities could club together to build their own micro-grids, which use batteries to store energy generated by wind turbines and solar panels to ensure a reliable supply for all residents.
What About Those Left Behind?
Although going off-grid offers significant benefits for those who can afford to invest in battery storage, low-income people who can't meet the cost of a solar installation could be left paying higher prices. Customers leaving the grid is likely to reduce revenue for electricity companies, who will still face the costs of maintaining the grid infrastructure for their remaining customers. According to CHOICE, government and industry will need to work closely together to ensure that everyone retains access to an affordable source of electricity.