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An introduction to community batteries in Australia—webinar recording

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Community batteries are one of the fastest-growing areas in the energy industry, with falling costs and maturing technology making the case for storage more attractive than ever, according to experts in a community battery webinar on 7 April 2021.

Hosted by the City of Yarra, we heard from an expert panel including

  • Chris Wallin, Community Battery Project Manager – Yarra Energy Foundation
  • Greg Hannan, Head of Network Strategy and Non-network Solutions, CitiPower, Powercor & United Energy
  • Dr Marnie Shaw, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Engineering and Research Leader in the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program at the Australian National University

Overview of the webinar

Chris gave an introduction to what community batteries are, how they function and different operating models. With a local perspective, he shared insights into YEF and CitiPower’s project on Victoria’s first community battery trial, also known as Melbourne’s Solar Sponge project. He gave an overview of the work that’s underway and how the Victorian model is focused on allowing the community to be involved in the implementation and potential ownership of the batteries.

Greg gave us a network perspective of community batteries, and why they are such an exciting technology for both electricity distributors and customers. He explained their potential to enhance the grid in different ways, while passing on customer benefits such as lower prices and enabling more solar installations. He emphasised that involving communities in the development and rollout of new battery models will be incredibly important as the network progresses to new, more advanced forms of energy storage.

Marnie then presented a national perspective on community batteries, showing how batteries can play important roles in grid stability. She described them as being able to maintain the desired frequency, or heartbeat, of the grid. She showed us some promising data on how Australia is projected to maintain its position as a global leader in rooftop solar.

Panellists were asked a range of insightful questions by the audience, such as what energy mix (grid versus solar) the batteries would hold, whether they would help renters or non-solar owners (they would), what is the expected reduction in customer bills, and how significant export constraints are in the Melbourne area.

With so much interest, there were more questions than time. However, the questions that did not get answered in the webinar will be used to inform how we develop resources on community batteries, such as frequently asked questions. For those interested, Ausgrid, which launched its first community battery trial this year, has developed an extensive list of FAQs on its project.

We would like to thank all who registered and attended the session, with a special thank you to Mel Miller-Yule and Samantha Green from the City of Yarra for hosting the event, and to the panellists who provided incredible insights into the fast-changing landscape of community batteries in Australia.

The Australian context

In the backdrop to this discussion, community batteries have the attention of state and federal governments. At the start of March, Victorian Government announced a $3 million Neighbourhood Battery Initiative to support battery trials and development. Public consultation on this initiative is open until 23 April 2021. The Queensland Government has also announced five large-scale community batteries at regional substations with a combined capacity of 40 MWh; and at the end last month, Federal Labor announced a $200 million Power To The People initiative that would fund the installation of 400 community batteries across Australia.

In addition to finance and technology, community understanding and acceptance of the role of community batteries will also be a critical part of their success.

Related links

Webinar recording: What’s the role of community batteries in the response to the climate emergency?

Victoria’s Neighbourhood Battery Initiative
Email: neighbourhood.batteries@delwp.vic.gov.au

City of Yarra, past events and webinar recordings

Victoria’s first community battery trial