German battery manufacturer Sonnen has launched its “bill shock” busting solar and storage energy package, SonnenFlat, in Victoria.
The fixed price deal offers households who install a sonnenbatterie with rooftop solar (and a smart meter) a flat monthly rate for their electricity, starting at $42 a month.
The Victorian launch gives the Royal Dutch Shell-owned company’s SonnenFlat program access to all of the eastern NEM states, including Tasmania, New South Wales, the ACT, Queensland and South Australia.
And it gives Sonnen more scope to push the energy package, which is yet to take off in Australia, despite the company’s battery sales numbering well over 3,000 by the first quarter of this year.
The idea, as Sonnen’s Asia Pacific CEO Nathan Dunn explained to One Step on Thursday, is to give household the advantage of knowing how much they’re going to pay for their electricity every month.
It works by sonnen offering a guaranteed annual energy allowance through sonnenFlat including solar, storage and grid energy usage for a fixed fee.
Packages range from 7,500kWh for $42 per month, 10,000kWh for $52 per month and 12,500kWh for $62 per month.
“Each one of the customers that we sign up, we have a discussion about which plan will suit them, going by the capacity of battery they’ve got, how much solar, their current load,” says Dunn.
“Recommendations might be either to upgrade the capacity of their battery, add more solar, or just to go on x plan, because what they have got will be enough. And there’s no lock-in contract.”
For Australians, who – if we are to believe the media and politicians – rank high electricity prices among their top cost of living concerns, it should be an attractive proposition.
But, as Dunn puts it, “it’s still a work in progress.” And meanwhile, the company’s batteries are gaining popularity.
As he told Giles Parkinson in March, Sonnen expects to “easily” double its sales of batteries within the next 12 months.
Uptake – which had been led by New South Wales households – is particularly taking off in South Australia, since the establishment of a manufacturing facility in the old Holden car plant in Adelaide.
“The support that we get from local consumers is great,” Dunn said. “That investment proposition seems to be really paying off.”
On SonnenFlat, Dunn says the key hurdle for the company is to educate Australian consumers – and not just about the savings they can make, but the choices they can make that, over time, will help Australia to transition to clean energy.
As we have reported previously on One Step, Sonnen sees its energy deal to be as much about empowering customers and capturing market share, as becoming a player in the national electricity market.
Ultimately, it hopes to use its network of behind the meter battery storage, solar and smarts as a “virtual power plant” to provide valuable grid-balancing services.
As the company’s former regional boss Chris Parratt told One Step in 2017, it would take just 500 installations in any one state to build up enough capacity to draw on to play in the frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) market.
But it’s a long way from that yet. And as Dunn notes this week, more stable national policy and a willing and able incumbent distribution and generation industry would help matters, greatly.
“It would be wonderful if there was a federal government that was actually providing some level of support … and driving Australia towards a clean energy future,” he told One Step.
But, he notes, “as an industry, we have done fairly well over the last 10-15 years with the lack of support that has come from federal government.
“It’s up to us to educate the consumers, they can still make their choice. In the first instance, they can cut costs, but over time, the can help Australia make the low-carbon transition.
“And as much as we have to educate our customers, we’ve also got to do the same thing with some of our distribution and generation networks.
“I think they still have to be convinced. A lot of the products out there at the moment are not necessarily helpful products for DNSPs. Whereas SonnenFlat is helpful.”