A community-based program to encourage the uptake of solar and battery storage in Australian homes and businesses has been so successful that the promoters believe the battery storage sector may be in the early stages of mass-market uptake.
A bulk-buy campaign led by Suncrowd has attracted thousands of people at roadshows in regional towns in New South Wales, Australia, in the last few months, and translated into what its organisers believe might already be the largest coordinated community energy project in the country.
So far, five community groups working with the program have attracted 3,500 people to events in Newcastle, Wollongong, the Blue Mountains, Shoalhaven, Goulburn and the Southern Highlands, delivering a projected 700kW of solar and 1.5MWh of battery storage. Another 500 people turned up at a second meeting in Wollongong on Tuesday night and similar numbers are expected in the Blue Mountains this week.
Suncrowd’s Chris Cooper says the response has been so strong that it shows that people are clearly ready for the next stage of the energy transition – by adding affordable energy storage and smart energy software to their solar system. It may even signal the start of the early “mass market” uptake of the technology.
Suncrowd describes itself as a social enterprise “creating a movement of Australian households who want to take the power back into their own hands.”
It says its community bulk buy program, which makes solar and batteries easy, accessible and at lower prices – overcomes the complexity and lack of trust that can dog such transactions.
“People want it delivered in a transparent, engaging and easy to understand format,” Cooper says, “and the community sector has a key role in facilitating this if we’re to increase uptake of important new energy technologies.”
Incumbent utilities should be worried. Firstly, they have long assumed that the uptake of battery storage would be a slow burn, and wouldn’t take off – apart from a few early adopters – until the “economics make sense.” When the economics do make sense, the big retailers assume that most consumers will go to a recognised name.
Community energy programs are also gaining traction. The “Repower” program that funds solar installations on local businesses has now raised nearly $500,000 for more than 300kW of rooftop solar, including a $140,000 fund raising that was met in less than 48 hours his week.
In Byron Bay, the community-owned renewable energy retailer Enova is also gaining traction, attracting more than 1,000 customers in its first few months of operation.
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