Home battery uptake hits new highs in Victoria in final months of 2020

Victoria – the Australian state hardest hit by Covid-19 in 2020 – has rounded out the pandemic-themed year with a couple of encouraging home energy storage milestones, including the biggest month for solar battery rebate uptake, and the biggest month for battery installations.

The latest data on the state’s Solar Homes program shows that there was a record total of 429 applications for the solar battery rebate in the second-last month of the year, in November, and 183 home battery installations in December.

Not bad for a year described earlier this month by industry analysts SunWiz as “tricky” and “tough” for the Australian rooftop solar market, as the spread of Covid led to tough government restrictions that ground many businesses to a halt. This was particularly pronounced in Victoria, where a “hard lockdown” prevented the vast majority of solar and battery installations for nearly three months.

The Victorian government said on Monday that a total of almost 1,900 Victorian households had applied for a Solar Homes battery since the program started in July 2019 – and fortnightly allocations of the battery rebate were now being “snapped up” almost as soon as they went online.

This is in stark contrast to when the home battery rebate was first launched by the Labor Andrews government, as part of its Solar Homes scheme, which offers a rebate and interest-free loan for installing solar panels and a solid discount – currently up to $4,174 – on the cost of installing a Clean Energy Council-approved household battery system.

While rooftop solar rebates were being embraced up by home owners – allocations were sometimes exhausted within a matter of minutes in the early days of the scheme in 2019 – battery rebates, originally restricted to households across just 24 Victorian postcodes, were slow to move.

But a combination of decreasing prices for home batteries, an increased range of product offerings under the scheme, and much improved access to the rebate by Solar Victoria – all of the state’s postcodes are now eligible – has seen uptake start to gather pace.

Solar Victoria, which runs the Solar Homes program for the government said on Monday that the latest data showed that a total of more than 15,000 of the state’s households now have a solar battery, alongside a total of 510,000 small-scale solar PV systems.

Conversely, the impact of the Coronavirus is believed to have been a driver of uptake, in the end, with industry reports suggesting Victorians stuck in their homes for months on end became a great deal more focused on their energy usage and maximising solar self-consumption.

For its part, the state government helped also drive battery uptake in 2020 with efforts to encourage the aggregation of batteries funded under the Solar Homes Program into virtual power plants, to broaden the reach of the benefits of battery storage.

And in the state budget in November, $190 million was set aside for Solar Homes which, for batteries, means the total number of rebates on offer will be boosted to 17,500 over the next three years. This financial year there will be 5,000 rebates available.

“Batteries have been extraordinarily popular under Covid,” Solar Victoria CEO Stan Krpan told One Step at the time. And in comments this week, Krpan said the extended battery rebates meant more Victorians could access a generous rebate and be part of the state’s transition to a cleaner energy future.

State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio also welcomed news of the latest solar battery numbers and said the government hoped to see these “impressive figures” rise even higher.

“The recent expansion of our solar battery rebate program will help Victorians store their affordable rooftop energy and boost local solar businesses as Victoria’s economic recovery continues,” the minister said.

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.