South Australia’s Home Battery Scheme Has Disappointing First Year
South Australian residents have been reluctant to take up the Government offer of a subsidised home battery, despite state-wide energy instability and soaring electricity prices. Launched in October 2018, the SA Governments Home Battery Scheme offers a subsidy of up to $6,000 for households that install a home battery. The initiative was designed to take some pressure off the energy network during peak demand times and eventually lead to lower energy prices across the state. However, after 12 months of operation, the scheme has received just 3,700 applications, and only 2,000 installations have been finalised – that’s well short of the target 40,000 installations the Government was hoping to achieve across a 4-year timeframe.
While the home battery initiative sounds like a step in the right direction, energy analyst Tristan Edis believes that the high cost of home batteries is acting as a deterrent for many South Australian households. The exorbitant cost of installation makes home batteries unaffordable for many, and even those who can afford the initial installation cost will be waiting years before they would make the money back in saved energy costs. “At best, you’d be getting payback at around eight years,” says Mr Edis. “And that’s not an exceptional financial investment.”
The biggest uptake in the SA Home Battery Scheme has been seen in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. One family that received a $5,000 subsidy still had to pay $18,000 out-of-pocket to upgrade their solar and have a home battery installed, but they believe the investment will be worth it in the long run. They’re now saving about $600 per quarter and estimate the system will have paid for itself in about 7 years.
Another reason why the Home Battery Scheme is off to such a slow start may be related to the current feed-in tariffs on offer to homes with solar systems. Residents are already getting an average price of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour to export their solar energy back into the grid, so some feel that a battery is unnecessary. Currently, over 30% of homes in South Australia have rooftop solar systems installed, but only 12.5% are adding batteries to store the energy. Mr. Edis feels that this is also due to the expectation that batteries will become more affordable in the next few years. “People are sitting on the fence waiting,” he says. “That’s why they aren’t enthusiastically adopting batteries.”
Despite the slow take-off, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, the SA Energy Minister, is confident that the target of 40,000 batteries will be reached by the target deadline of October 2022. “We knew that it would start off slowly, we knew it would pick up the pace and that’s exactly what’s happening,” he affirms. “The early adopters of home battery storage are already seeing the ongoing benefits and their stories will be the greatest testament for others considering making the same investment.”
Despite the optimism of the Government, the Opposition remains critical of the scheme, claiming it remains unaffordable for the majority of South Australian’s.