New article in The Conversation today. Excerpt below.
The idea is for these batteries to reduce carbon emissions and energy bills while benefiting all energy users nearby, rather than only those with access to rooftop solar. These are great ambitions – small wonder they’ve proven a hit.
But the success of these batteries is far from certain.
Over the last four years, our research has found two areas we have to fix to maximise the chances these batteries actually do what we want them to do.
First, we need greater clarity on how we decide whether community batteries are a good investment.
Second, we need better measurement and evaluation of what these batteries actually contribute to the grid and to energy users.
In a new discussion paper, this article’s lead author argues the primary purpose of community batteries ought to be addressing constraint in the local electricity grid. This reiterates a consistent finding from our research.
While this sounds reasonable, community batteries aren’t the only option to fix local grid issues. That means we should only turn to them where they are clearly better than the alternatives, such as upgrading transformers.
What about storing solar and shoring up the grid? These tasks may be done more efficiently and with less environmental impact with grid-scale batteries, pumped hydro or electric vehicle batteries.
And what about sharing the benefits of solar with people who can’t afford an array or who have nowhere to put one? While this vision is in line with public sentiment, the complexity of the privatised energy system makes it very difficult to redistribute financial benefits.
Community batteries are also no panacea for the desire of people to see and be included in national planning for the decarbonisation transition. An inclusive planning process can address uncertainties in how the transition will affect us and our communities and ensure it upholds public values.
Time will tell if the newly announced Net Zero Authority will deliver this.