Here’s how Aussie solar energy lovers could bag "free” electricity

By Kelly Emmerton ·

Solar power is set to be a major player in Australia’s renewable energy future as energy companies offer up new ways to make solar more affordable for households - including a “free power” scheme from German battery storage company sonnen.

Under the scheme, sonnen would take on all electricity charges, while customers pay a flat fee ranging from $30 to $50 per month, depending on the size of the household and its solar energy setup.

“Households are struggling under ever changing and ever rising power bills, and instead we are offering to pay those charges in exchange for a flat charge. It is like a mobile phone plan,” said sonnen’s Managing Director, Philipp Schroeder.

                                                      Via Natural Solar

The tradeoff is that sonnen has access to the solar energy stored in each household’s battery, and can sell it back to the grid when demand for power is high. This creates a “virtual power station,” which links up hundreds of homes to manage the flow of solar power back to the grid.

This year, major player AGL implemented the virtual power plant design in South Australia, where 32.8% of households have solar panels - the highest rate in the country. But while the homes on this scheme were all in the same area, the sonnen plan will include homes all around the country.

According to Natural Solar, sonnen customers are given a set amount of free electricity each day, depending on which tier of the program they are on. If their energy use exceeds this amount, the customer “starts to get charged only for electricity imported from the grid (not from power generated from your solar system and power utilised from your battery) at a rate significantly lower than standard retail electricity rates.”

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Recent data from Roy Morgan research shows one quarter of Aussie households have solar panels installed. According to sonnen, that’s 1.6 million homes, many of which are retro-fitting their solar set-up with battery storage options in order to reap the benefits.

                                                     via Roy Morgan

Chris Parratt, managing director for sonnen Australia, said the case for setting up a manufacturing plant in Australia “is getting stronger all the time,” thanks to bumper demand for battery technology, as Aussies seek to avoid ever-rising power costs.

On July 1, Australian energy retailers updated their prices, resulting in hikes of up to 20% for some customers. According to sonnen, its flat fee model could insulate households from these rising prices.

Mozo’s energy comparison tool shows that a three person household in Sydney’s west using 12,500 kWh a year might pay around $2,692 on a low cost energy plan. The same household might pay a flat fee of $50 a month, or $600 a year on sonnen’s flat fee scheme.

That number is on top of the cost of installing the battery system, which according to The Australian, might range from $11,587 for households with existing solar panels, to $13,600 for a 6kWh system including solar panels.

But sonnen said that it could take just 5-6 years for the system to pay for itself in savings, “which, coupled with a substantial reduction in the amount paid for power, is a huge result for Aussies.”

Another way to save money with your solar panels? Head over to our energy comparison tool to find an electricity plan with a killer solar feed-in tariff.

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