21 June 2021

Big Canberra Battery powers on to next procurement stage

| Ian Bushnell
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Rooftop solar

The Big Battery will support rooftop solar in Canberra, other renewables and help stabilise the grid. Photo: File.

The ACT Government is pushing ahead with its plans for the Big Canberra Battery project after the recent closure of a successful pitch to the market for suppliers.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said there had been significant industry interest in the project, with the government fielding 42 submissions, two-thirds of which were from Australian companies.

“This is a clear signal of the industry’s capacity to deliver on this ambitious project, which will support the ACT’s efforts to reduce emissions and maintain a reliable and efficient energy grid for ACT households,” Mr Barr said.

He said that an EOI process would now open in the coming months for interested industry partners to work with the ACT Government on the specific design parameters of the project.

The project’s detailed design work will be undertaken in 2021-22, with construction expected to commence in 2022-23.

“The global battery storage market is predicted to be worth $400 billion by 2030, and the high interest in the ACT’s proposed battery system will ensure that the nation’s capital remains at the forefront of a booming industry – supporting new jobs in emerging industries,” Mr Barr said.

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The Big Canberra Battery will deliver at least 250 MW of battery storage to support Canberra households with stored renewable energy. When complete, it will be one of the biggest battery storage systems in Australia.

The government says the project aims to increase network reliability by reducing pressure and congestion on the grid, better integrating the increasing supply of renewable energy in the network, reducing electricity price spikes, and generating new revenue opportunities for the ACT.

It will also support the addition of more renewable power sources to the network.

The project will involve a distributed network of batteries built across the city.

“As a combined network, this battery system can address network constraints, enable more Canberrans to reap the benefits of solar, and present the opportunity for government to reduce costs and potentially generate revenue,” Mr Barr said.

A government spokesperson said battery storage technology could vary in size and location and be installed as a range of smaller batteries or in larger quantities for different uses.

“The market sounding process will help the ACT Government better understand the types of options available in the market, including packages of services and infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.

The government could not reveal the companies that responded but said a report from a workshop with key industry stakeholders held in May to explore delivery options and help develop the best procurement approach would be made public soon.

The Neoen and GPG batteries, which will be built in Beard, are part of an earlier government procurement and the Big Battery builds on that. It will work alongside these and other batteries already being built and planned across the city, and household battery systems.

Mr Barr said that the government’s Sustainable Household Scheme, which will support more Canberra households to fit solar panels and efficient electric appliances, would further increase the significant amount of renewable energy already generated in the ACT.

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Guidelines are now available for the $150 million scheme. It will provide zero-interest loans to eligible households to help with the upfront costs of investing in products and appliances that make their homes more energy-efficient.

More than 5,000 householders and 44 suppliers and installers have already registered their interest in the scheme, offering loans of between $2,000 and $15,000 to be repaid over 10 years.

The government is in the final stages of the procurement process to engage a loan provider and invite the initial group of registered homeowners, who have already completed an Actsmart workshop, to participate in a pilot before the end of June.

The pilot will allow the government to test and refine the system with a small group of Canberrans, suppliers and installers before it opens to all eligible households and individuals in the coming months.

Interested suppliers and installers are also invited to attend an information session on Thursday, 24 June. To find out more, register your interest.

Interested households, suppliers and installers can access the Guidelines online.

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Batteries – with lithium ion or lead acid will be the new asbestos problem In 10 years. Salt-water batteries less of a problem but largely untested. What is this one going to be? Maybe it is time to have a rational, non-emotive scientific discussion about that carbon free power source – nuclear.

Why is it Canberra people do not understand risk analysis. Some simple numbers to demonstrate the effect of this big battery. I have no doubt that it is actually 250 mwh in storage capacity and not a generation capacity of 250mw.
Canberra currently has around 90,000 residences. A study of Sydney local government areas showed that the average daily consumption per residence was around 15 KWH. Applying that same rate to Canberra residences would allow them to have over 4 hours of electricity supply if the grid went down from such incidents as major transmission lines being cut or failure of a couple of major coal-fired generators in NSW or Victoria. This assumption is based on all businesses and non-residential usage of electricity for things such as street lighting were cut off. There may be problems in that the gaol, police stations, defence facilities might get priority ahead of residences, let alone hospitals but they could be asked to switch to their emergency generators.

Capital Retro5:33 pm 24 Jun 21

I am assuming you are supporting the big battery concept and you are scoping what services should be turned off first to allow a 250mwh battery to save the 90,000 residents for 4 hours.

Shouldn’t the first service to be turned off be the light rail, surely?

HiddenDragon6:59 pm 22 Jun 21

“….will ensure that the nation’s capital remains at the forefront of a booming industry – supporting new jobs in emerging industries,” Mr Barr said.”

Unless there are yet to be revealed plans for an ACT battery manufacturing and/or recycling industry (all pigs fueled and ready for take-off) these will be the jobs arising from the installation and servicing of imported technology – a very expensive way of buying jobs and, in this case, the associated (for some) warm inner glow.

It would be good to understand how 250mw stacks up if the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.

Capital Retro2:23 pm 24 Jun 21

Don’t speculate on unknown unknowns.

There is a waft of BS coming off this. We’ve had power supplied to all the houses in our suburbs for many many decades. During this time there’s been no need or even a suggestion of installing batteries. But, since this regime subsidised the wealthy to install roof-top solar, with inverters to feed power back into the street cables, we suddenly need batteries. Now this regime is going to spend ratepayer/taxpayer funds to install batteries across the city, to stabilise the grid they subsidised to the point it became unstable.

How much is this regime going to spend on these batteries?
How often do they check the frequency generated by households?
How wonky is the frequency across Canberra with all these inverters?

Whilst I agree with you that small scale solar is not an efficient way to deliver electricity, small scale solar hasn’t had large amounts of subsidy since the feed in tariffs were closed many years ago now.

The alternative to schemes like this would be to put a tax on small scale solar to incentivise individuals installing storage capacity but if organised correctly, the government or business can use these batteries to store the power from solar when the market price is cheap and then feed it back into the network when prices are higher, making a nice profit.

Hold on. The ACT Smart website currently lists a roof-top solar subsidy program of 50% or up to $2,500. So the ratepayer/taxpayer is still subsidising roof-top solar installation in the ACT, and at the same time, paying for batteries to be installed across the city, to stabilise the grid made unstable by these numerous small inverters.

Also, how do you know this regime will make a nice profit, they don’t have a good track record of achieving their predictions.

Which scheme are you looking at?
There remains a low income subsidy for homeowners with a Pensioner Concession card. Which is accessible to a tiny minority of people. Is that the one you’re referencing?

“Also, how do you know this regime will make a nice profit,”

I did say if the proposal was organised correctly. And the evidence available is the operation of the energy market and when PV systems produce their peak electricity output. Due to the proliferation of these systems, their peak output drives the cost of electricity down enormously. This can be exploited with these types of battery systems for profit.

Now, as above, I don’t actually think this is the most efficient way of achieving the best outcomes but your comments that it’s all BS and large government subsidies, doesn’t line up with the evidence..

For many thousands of years civilisations made do with fires to keep warm, cook food and for light.

Going by your theory that we shouldn’t change because what we have works civilisation would never have moved forward.

The world is changing and we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand and burn coal, gas and other carbon fuels. We need to change.

As for regimes interestingly regimes all over Australia and indeed much of the world are adopting renewable power. It’s hardly an issue specific to the ACT regime.

JC, I haven’t said we shouldn’t change, I think the subsidised change to roof-top solar, with the numerous small inverters destabilising the grid, with now the additional need for batteries to stabilise the grid, was the wrong change. I agree we need to get away from fossil fuels, but large scale renewables that don’t destabilise the grid would be better, with nuclear to supply baseload.

Capital Retro5:39 pm 24 Jun 21

A lot of people are still getting .45c kWh feed in tariff which is twice the new usage charge will be.

Solar is so good it still has to be subsidised.

Capital Retro,
Thanks for mentioning a scheme that was closed to new entrants in 2011, fully 10 years ago.

Shows how far technology and prices can go in a short period of time such that solar doesnt need subsidy anymore. And similar things have been happening in the renewable sector overall.

Thanks for reminding us of how renewable energy is taking over from older fossil fuel generation sources due to the rapidly reducing cost.

Capital Retro9:29 pm 24 Jun 21

Did I say the scheme was still open? No, but some lucky people were signed up to get 20 years of the those .45ckWh tariffs. You are happy to subsidize that – I am not.

One of the major retail suppliers is now offering several thousand dollars of RECS and a .22c kWh feed in tariff for at least 2 years.

Subsidies for part-time renewable solar that will replace fulltime coal are alive and well.

Capital Retro,
Can’t see where I’ve suggested the Feed In Tariff was a good idea.

Just that it clearly isn’t available now, nor for many years.

Although anyone with a house and a brain should have leaped at the opportunity, so silly was the offer. Sorry you seem to have missed out.

As for the rest of your claim, perhaps you can provide a link rather than bluster. I’m always interested in assessing these types of offers.

Although you’re right in that we don’t need more subsidies for the expensive coal plants, just an orderly transition to the cheaper renewable options.

Capital Retro8:12 am 25 Jun 21

I didn’t miss out on a brain if that’s what you are inferring but I simply didn’t have any spare cash at that time.

Rather than than me supply you with a link about the current solar offers why don’t you make a phone call to 1300 791468?

Speaking of “claims”, how about you supply some some details of the “subsidies to expensive coal plants”?

Capital Retro,
That’s the point though, you didn’t even need “spare cash”, the offer was so good that it made financial sense to take out a loan to get the feed in tariff. Payback periods of less than 2 years. It was breathtakingly generous at the time for anyone with some nous.

And I didn’t make a claim, i was just responding to yours. I’m interested in the evidence, because if there are good offers around, perhaps you should be purchasing now. Put up a link.

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