Australians installed 22,661 home battery systems in 2019

Australian households invested in almost two-and-a-half “Big Batteries” worth of home energy storage in 2019, installing 22,661 systems over the course of the year with a total capacity of 233MWh, and taking further control over their energy supply.

The numbers were published this week as part of the 2020 Australia Battery Market Report, the latest annual market estimates from solar analytics group SunWiz, based on figures reported by leading manufacturers. (You can purchase a copy here).

SunWiz, which has been tracking battery numbers in Australia since 2015, said 2019 home battery uptake was actually slightly down on 2018 numbers, but that an increase in non-residential installations had delivered a new annual record.

“This was a record year for battery installation,” managing director Warwick Johnston said in the report of the combined total of 376MWh of new storage capacity added in 2019.

“The residential capacity decreased, but this was offset by an increase in non-residential battery capacity (143MWh) to reach a new record year.”

All up, the report puts the cumulative tally for Australia at 73,000 battery storage systems, or 1099MWh of battery storage capacity installed since 2015.

Of this number, home battery systems remain by far the biggest contributor, with 738MWh of storage, compared to 361MWh of non-residential storage.

Back to 2019, however, and the numbers suggest that around 1 in 13 Australian solar households also have battery storage, or 7.9 per cent.

Johnston says these statistics for battery growth in Australia – again, slightly down on 2018 numbers – need to be viewed in the context of what was a remarkable year for rooftop solar uptake.

“Equivalent to 8% of the new PV systems that were installed in 2019 included a battery, down from 12% in 2017,” the report said.

“This is understandable in the context of PV enjoying a record year with 35% growth. The battery market simply didn’t grow like the PV market did.”

Nonetheless, the home battery market “is still the ‘main game’ for most … manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers,” Johnston says, with installation numbers forecast to increase to 28,000 new residential systems in 2020, totalling 280MWh of capacity.

Meanwhile, the individual size of the batteries that households are installing appears to be going in the other direction.

The report shows that the average capacity of home battery installations fell back to 10.3kWh over 2019, a trend SunWiz connects to industry-wide efforts to make batteries more affordable, as well as to the influence of various state government subsidy guidelines.

On a state by state basis, South Australia – with its well-established state government home battery subsidy – led the market, overtaking New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland in the process, the report says.

South Australia’s home battery policy also created an incentive for Australia-manufactured product, the report notes, which has resulted in Sonnen, Alpha-ESS and Eguana setting up assembly plant operations in the state. Other home-grown battery technologies noted by SunWiz include Redflow, eCoult and Magefekt, as well as Selectronic inverters.

Victoria, which has its own state government subsidy for home batteries – offering a generous rebate of $4,838 off the cost of a storage system, and recently extended to include more than 250 postcodes across the state – could be expected to regain ground this year.

New South Wales also has a new policy to encourage uptake, with the recent launch of a 12 month pilot offering interest-free loans of up to $14,000 for a solar-battery system, or up to $9,000 for the addition of a battery to an existing solar system.

SunWiz says the consumer view of battery storage is also changing, with the ‘brand conscious early adopter’ now being replaced by the ‘budget conscious subsidy seeker’, particularly in states with generous subsidies.

“Most customers are first-time solar owners buying solar and storage concurrently and opting for a DC-coupled inverter, except where battery brand preference drives them towards an AC-coupled solution,” the report said.

And consumer expectations of home batteries are changing, too. The report notes that “backup” – the ability to keep the lights on if the grid goes down – is now a standard function within home energy storage systems, and manufacturers without that functionality are “scrambling” to add it.

“We calculate 98% of the market included battery backup functionality,” Johnston says. “DC coupled solutions are returning to strength, representing circa 60% of the market according to our surveys. 30% of installations were retrofit to an existing solar system.”

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