Wednesday, 15 June 2016 09:17

Charge it – the future of electricity


it’s a given that solar power and in-home battery storage is the future of home electricity generation – that is, until we get back to the future with a plutonium-powered nuclear fission reactor and a flux capacitor.

Simon Hackett, the executive chairman of Australian energy storage specialist Redflow, has called for state governments to offer consumers the opportunity to voluntarily trade in their solar feed-in tariffs (FITs) in exchange for battery subsidies, effectively reducing a long-term liability for these governments and kick-starting an innovative new industry for Australia.

Of course, Hackett’s Brisbane-based company Redflow makes flux capacitors – sorry ZCell batteries built on an equally scientific sounding zinc-bromine flow battery that can supply 10-kilowatt hours of on-demand, stored energy harvested free from the sun. It is the logical extension to solar panels.

Hackett has few words to say about other battery technologies like lead-acid or Lithium-based alternatives. "If you can’t say something nice …" would seem to be a good start. ZCell has a 100% depth of discharge (no memory effect), operates up to 50° without the need for external cooling, and is intrinsically fire retardant – there is no risk of thermal runaway or fire. Add a 10-year warranty and this local company has the undisputed lead.

Hackett said FITs had already achieved their goal of kick-starting solar panel adoption in Australia. Over the past year, Australia has emerged as a global battery testing ground because of its widespread deployment of PV solar panels and higher electricity costs.

“From a public policy point of view, continuing to pay FITs beyond this point represents a substantial forward liability that does not deliver improved public good outcomes. However, state governments are clearly sensitive to the political risk of simply cancelling these long-running tariff schemes, some of which hold liabilities to as far as 2028,” Hackett said.

The way out of this problem, outlined at the start of this story, will, he believes, serve both the public policy and industry development agenda while removing these long-term liabilities from the public purse.

In practice, the cost of a government battery subsidy would not exceed the remaining forward liability for a customer, which can be readily estimated based on past subsidy payment patterns. Hackett believes that the net present value of the future liability is so much more than the immediate battery system cost that the saving overall would easily exceed (and hence justify) any short-term budgetary impact. Governments routinely make business decisions based on the net present value of the alternatives concerned.

Hackett said the FITs buyout concept, widely discussed in the Australian renewables sector, was reportedly under consideration by Queensland.

“Widespread energy storage will also benefit far-sighted electricity companies by reducing demand during peak power usage periods and giving them the potential to buy home-stored energy as a ‘virtual’ on-demand power source rather than relying on fossil-fuelled driven peaking gas generators," he said.

"It will also help Australia achieve its international carbon reduction commitments by time-shifting renewable energy so it can be used 24/7, not just when the wind is blowing or when the sun is shining. Swapping FITs for a home battery subsidy is a win-win.”

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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