Dumb storage isn’t going to solve the energy crisis – Lessons from Australia

The fervent discussions around the role of large scale battery storage in averting the potential for an energy crisis in Australia is finally starting to settle. While there have been many conversations around utility scale storage for energy security, you might hold on to that notion that larger storage capacities would save the day but in reality, its smarter storage and not more storage on the grid that saves the day.
At the Energy Storage Parliamentary Briefing organised with the support of the Energy Storage Council (Australian Solar Council), a small part of the discussion went towards residential energy storage while parliamentarians were enamoured by a discussion on utility scale storage. It seemed like the perfect panacea for our energy crisis and just what their constituents need. As an afterthought, what we could have positioned as an industry, is how smart residential storage is the solution we have right now.
Smart storage is what needs to be the centre stage in our debate around energy security. Capitalising on the wave of interest in energy storage, many manufacturers are simply jumping on the bandwagon to build and sell storage that is affordable. Yet in the industry’s push to meet market demands, the commoditisation of storage with dumb storage flooding the market is undermining the real value of what a distributed intelligent residential storage network can do for Australia’s energy grid.
Many homeowners who currently own energy storage don’t realise that they have purchased dumb storage that is just connected with some analytical software add-ons. This software might provide an overview on how much energy generated has been stored, used or what is remaining in their batteries. But not many other insights beyond this.
However, when we combine storage with software, we get smart storage that has the ability to smooth out demand on the grid. For example, setting batteries to discharge when grid electricity rates is at its peak in the evening and to recharge batteries at night on off-peak rates.
If manufacturers continue to focus on pricing storage as a commodity, there will be no incentives for companies to invest in building software that delivers more integrated storage solutions that have a wider benefit electricity grids around the world.
What we need now as an industry is to continue to increase our investment in designing software that can help batteries deliver dispatchable energy on demand to stabilise the network. We have already seen some momentum in Australia with trading capabilities playing into that space — but what if households were happy to sacrifice meagre feed in tariff payouts from utilities for a reduction in their utility charges if their batteries had software capabilities that could dispatch unused energy generated to the grid when it is most needed?
Instead of merely focusing on price cutting to shift storage, energy storage manufacturers need to make a good business case for homeowners to pay a premium for smarter software. This is where we can shift the debate from looking at solving utility scale energy problems by looking at what we have in our garages and rooftops and making storage smarter.

Nathan Dunn, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Enphase Energy



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