By Shane Rattenbury, Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction
ACT has become a leader in energy storage with the successful completion of the Next Generation Energy Storage program and investment in large-scale batteries.
The ACT is electrifying and shifting to a zero emissions future. Creating a strong and stable distributed energy system is a critical focus for this work. Energy storage, mainly through batteries, is a key priority as we transition from fossil fuel gas.
The ACT Government’s Next Generation Energy Storage program (Next Gen) has been a major factor in encouraging energy storage development and increasing the number of household batteries available in the ACT. This program has now concluded, but its impacts will be long lasting for our Territory.
The ACT has a history of taking bold action and being a global leader in responding to climate change. When we launched the Next Gen program in 2016, it was the largest deployment of battery storage in Australia.
This $20 million multi-year initiative aimed to grow the ACT’s battery industry, add 36MW of power storage into the electricity grid, and help reach our goal of having 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2020 – a target we have achieved and will continue to maintain.
The Next Gen program has been a resounding success. Over the past seven years, it has accelerated the ACT’s battery marketplace and contributed invaluable data to battery and network integration research.
In early 2023, the program reached its target of 5,000 rebates. It has already added 28MW of storage to the grid, with the full 36MW expected to be reached by late 2023 or early 2024 as the final installations are completed.
The program launched with just four battery installers in the ACT. Now there are 24 installers, with around 50 jobs created for retailers and installers, including apprenticeships and training initiatives.
As a result of the Next Gen program, the ACT’s battery market has developed to the point where it can operate independently in an atmosphere of healthy rivalry and high demand.
Thanks to the Next Gen program, the ACT has a battery installation density of 2.9 per cent, meaning that about one in 30 ACT homes has battery storage. This is one of the highest domestic battery densities in the world and more than three times the national average.
These adoption rates show that there is consumer demand for household batteries, and suggest we are on our way to seeing batteries becoming commonplace in existing homes and new builds along with other distributed energy resources such as solar panels and, increasingly, EV chargers.
Significant industry impact
Next Gen has had a lasting effect on research that will benefit the renewable energy industry beyond the ACT. As a direct result of the program, the Australian National University now hosts a critical mass of research expertise in battery and network integration through its Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program.
This was made possible through access to data from the Next Gen program, as well as support provided by the ACT Government’s Renewable Energy Innovation Fund. The key to the program’s success is that it aligns with other ACT Government initiatives, including the Sustainable Household Scheme through which participants can access zero-interest loans to make energy-efficient upgrades to their homes, including batteries.
Launched in 2021, the scheme has meant that households could combine their Next Gen rebate with a zero interest loan to avoid upfront costs and start saving right away. Building on the success of the Next Gen program, energy storage technology will continue to transform the way we use electricity.
In the ACT, increased energy storage will be essential to ensuring the reliability of our electricity supply and providing power during times of high demand. Energy storage capabilities will also become increasingly important when large fossil-fuel generators fail and cause supply issues across eastern Australia.
Large-scale battery investment
We are continuing to build energy storage capability by investing in large-scale batteries. This work will provide a variety of energy storage options to the ACT electricity grid. In February 2023, the ACT’s first grid-scale battery, a 10MW/20MWh system secured through reverse auction in 2019, became fully operational.
Developed and owned by Global Power Generation, the battery has enough storage to power approximately 3,000 homes for two hours and helps to smooth and stabilise electricity supply.
In the same round of reverse auctions, the ACT Government secured a 100MW/250MWh battery built and owned by Neoen. This battery will further modernise and stabilise the ACT grid, and we expect it to become operational this year.
In addition, the ACT Government has recently announced a partnership with Eku Energy to deliver a large-scale battery of up to 250MW as part of the Big Canberra Battery program. We’re also considering the role that smaller neighbourhood-sized batteries have in our grid and are working with industry to assess proposals for small-scale batteries of up to 1MW.
We expect these batteries to supply electricity to schools and other government buildings and play an important role in meeting our target for net zero emissions from ACT Government operations by 2040.
Building energy storage capability requires bold, strategic leadership combined with an integrated policy approach, investment in research and innovative technologies, and effective partnerships with industry that deliver the best outcome for communities.
While there is still much to be done, I’m proud of what we have achieved so far both through the Next Gen program and complementary initiatives. Continuing to focus on energy storage in the ACT will be crucial as we work to electrify our city and rapidly reduce emissions to meet our target of net zero emissions by 2045.