South Korea-based Q Cells has become the latest non-traditional energy market company to make a move into Australia’s increasingly competitive electricity retail space, with the launch of an “end-to-end” solar and battery-based offer through a new entity called Arcstream.
Arcstream offers an integrated solar and storage subscription plan backed up from the grid by 100% green energy, delivered via authorised electricity retailer partner Electricity in a Box.
In Victoria, customers who sign up to Arcstream can also sign up to take part in the state’s virtual power plant pilot, through which they entrust control of their solar and battery system to Arcstream to deliver their “optimal energy solution.”
For customers who take up that particular offer, and who don’t already have a battery, Q Cells is one of technology providers selected by the Victorian government to offer a slightly more generous version – $4,174 – of its home battery rebate, as an incentive to join the VPP.
This could then be applied to the Q.Home Core A5 battery – Q Cells’ brand new offering to the Australian market which, at 6.8kWh per module and scalable up to 20.5kWh, is expected to sit somewhere in the middle of the market pricing range.
The website doesn’t single out the cost of the new battery, but does outline the cost of its solar and storage pricing, as shown below.
Households without solar or a battery can get the whole lot through Arcstream, including Q Cells solar panels and smart inverters, with the option of using “tailored finance” to pay for it. The offer is also open to customers who already have solar and an existing battery – as long as it’s a Q Cells battery.
According to Arcstream’s website, the whole deal is all about changing the consumer’s relationship to energy, essentially, to “set and forget.”
That is, pay a fixed, flat rate to “use energy in abundance,” knowing it is green – and for those taking part in the VPP, knowing that your solar and battery system will sometimes be used to support the broader grid (possibly in return for small bonus credits – see below).
“We know that many local residents already see the benefit of owning their own solar and battery, but we also know that buying solar and storage and finding an energy plan that works for them can be incredibly overwhelming,” said Arcstream general manager of commercial operations, Mick Fell, in a statement.
“We want to provide an easy way for households to simplify the complexity of putting home renewable energy in place by offering an all-inclusive solution from a trusted and quality brand, that matches their energy needs to their lifestyle like their broadband or mobile phone plan.”
It also offers easy access to a bigger battery rebate for eligible Victoria customers, and the peace of mind of having Q Cells technicians and warranties to fall back on if there are any problems. Q Cells offers a 15-year warranty for its new battery.
So is it a good deal? Like all retail electricity offers, it won’t suit everyone – and obviously the VPP part of the deal is pretty limited from the outset: First, to eligible customers on Victoria’s Ausnet network; second to customers who opt for a Q Cells battery.
For those who are keen, there are much more detailed notes on the ins and outs of the offer in Arcstream’s customer terms and conditions document, here, to weigh up the pros and cons.
Some key points include:
– By participating, customers agree to give permission to Arcstream to manage their combined electricity resources – grid imports, solar PV generation, and battery – to support the cost of the service.
– Arcstream’s subscription plans comprise a fixed, flat monthly fee, a grid imports threshold, and a consumption charge for grid imports that exceed this threshold.
– The onimous sounding “grid import threshold” is apparently matched to the size of the solar PV and battery energy storage system of each household, as well as to its energy consumption patterns, which Arcstream controls to make it all come out right.
How do they make it come out right? According to Arcstream, by providing:
– Predictable and easy-to-understand energy bills matched to your lifestyle and the investment you have made in solar PV and battery energy storage system.
– The potential, depending on market events in the grid, to be rewarded for your battery’s participation in the Arcstream VPP with the payment of “VPP credits” when your battery is used to respond to market events. (Although VPP credits are payable for just 50% of a household’s battery’s share of revenue from an event, and up to a monthly cap of $20.)
The final word from Arcstream: “Our VPP offers a completely managed service that delivers the optimal result for you and enables you to use energy in abundance.”
We’d love to hear from anyone who joins up.