Canberrans more optimistic about large-scale renewable energy storage

O’Connor mum Sophie Jenson reckons generating your own electricity is a bit like growing your own vegetables.

“When you grow your own vegetables, you’re more appreciative of how you use them in food. When you’ve been generating your own energy, you’re more aware of how you use it,” Ms Jenson said.

 

It’s this awareness she thinks is key to making renewable energy work more widely across Australia.

Three in four Canberrans believe large-scale energy storage coupled with solar and wind power can provide 24/7 power on demand, compared with one in two Australians more broadly.

A Climate Council poll of almost 2000 Australians has shown ACT residents were the most optimistic about large-scale energy storage, including batteries and hydro schemes.

 About a third (34.4 per cent) of ACT residents surveyed owned a solar system, the second-lowest percentage in Australia.

However 9.1 per cent of those said they already had a battery system, the highest in Australia. Another 72.7 per cent said they would consider adding a battery system.

More than half of ACT residents surveyed said they believed people bought a solar battery to reduce their power bills. About 15.6 per cent said they did it to give them more control over their power bills while another 15.6 per cent said they did it to get off the grid.

Most ACT residents said they expected solar batteries to become very common (40.6 per cent) or common (37.5 per cent) across Australian households in the next decade.

Over half said they believed large-scale batteries, like the one being built in South Australia, to become very common (24.4 per cent) or common (30.3 per cent) in the next 10 years.

Just under a third (31.3 per cent) of ACT residents surveyed believed large-scale battery projects made the grid more reliable, 21.9 per cent said it would make electricity cheaper while just 3.1 per cent said it would help stop blackouts.

Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said the attitudes of ACT residents appeared to marry up with the territory government’s “progressive approach to energy”.

“We know that the ACT is a frontrunner in the national race to to secure, clean and affordable electricity.  For example, the ACT is undertaking one of the largest household battery storage programs in the world, to provide 36 MW of energy storage to households and businesses by 2020,” Ms Mckenzie said.

“That explains why, in our recent survey on the acceptance of energy storage within Australia, people in ACT were amongst the country’s most literate in the use of that technology as a vital foundation for reliable, affordable, 24/7 power.”

SunWiz solar energy consultant Warwick Johnson said the ACT’s  “historically low” power prices had “curtailed” the uptake of solar in the territory, and the higher proportion of renters than other states may have also “hindered” the take-up.

However he said the solar battery rebate was likely why the ACT was “punching above its weight” in terms of those sales.

“In absence of that program I suspect you wouldn’t have those sales in the ACT because electricity prices are driving sales otherwise and you guys still have lowest electricity prices in the country,” Mr Johnson said.

Ms Jenson’s motivation for installing her solar system was not financial, although she has only had one $40 power bill in the past year.

“My primary motivation was environmental. If you’re in a lucky position to own your own home and you’re in a position to do something about your energy consumption you should step up and do that,” Ms Jenson said.

She hopes a renewable energy powered Australia is possible but feels it is “partly up to the people”.

“The big thing for me about getting this battery is I’m someone with a slim grasp of how electricity works and it makes you a much more conscious consumer of energy,” Ms Jenson said.

“If more people are aware of their consumption modes or use we can all be a part of the change to make energy more sustainable.

“Being aware of how much energy being drawn by different appliances, being more conscious about not putting things on at once, levelling out your energy usage across the day.

“When I would do the dishwashing, it used to be an evening routine, now put it on just before leave for work. Now I don’t run my dishwasher, washing machine, and vacuum all at once.”

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