Community batteries are all the rage at the moment. The Federal Government has committed to installing 400 of them across the country. But what are they? Can your not-for-profit use one? And how do you access them?
Difficulty: It depends. Low difficulty if there is a community battery in your area, high if there isn’t.
Not really an option for most organisations right now, but there are exciting times ahead.
What are community batteries?
Community batteries are an exciting development in green technology. They are what the name suggests: big batteries that provide shared battery storage for several properties in an area. They work by allowing customers to store the excess power their solar panels generate during the day for use later on in the evening.
Community batteries are usually around the size of a large car and can store around 500 kWh of energy – that’s enough to support about 250 households. They look similar to the big metal electricity boxes you see in neighbourhoods today.
Why are community batteries good?
Community batteries have several benefits. They:
- help maximise the use of renewable energy that a community produces with its solar panels
- reduce energy bills by helping people use less energy from the traditional network
- reduce emissions
- help the network to become more sustainable and more environmentally friendly
- help make battery storage and renewable energy available to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Community batteries represent a really exciting opportunity to truly change the traditional grid network. Community batteries can create mini independent networks, as distinct from one large (and therefore vulnerable) grid. This is particularly exciting for remote and small communities, and in light of the expected increase in storms, floods and extreme heat associated with climate change.
Community batteries are usually owned and operated by a power network. To access one, you will need to sign up to their energy plans. The terms and conditions vary, so you’ll need to make sure you are happy with your contract before signing up.
Which is better: an individual battery storage system or a community battery?
This is a good question. At the moment there simply aren’t enough community batteries available for every organisation to connect to, so individual batteries remain the only battery option for many.
Community batteries do present a good opportunity, though, if you have access to them. They offer a chance to pool resources, spread the cost, and make battery access available to people who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
Can my not-for-profit join a community battery?
Community batteries are still a rare sight, although there are more and more pilot programs popping up.
If you’re keen to get involved in community batteries, you should research what programs are available in your state or territory. The Federal Government’s “power to the people” program was a 2022 ALP election promise that would allow communities to apply for a battery. It remains to be seen whether the program will be delivered.
Most states and territories have their own programs, such as the Victorian Government’s neighbourhood battery initiative (NBI): https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/batteries-and-energy-storage/neighbourhood-battery-initiative).
Advocating for a community battery in your area is something many not-for-profits would be good at. It’s worth thinking about the role your organisation could play in getting a community battery installed in your area. The people of Yackandandah in Victoria provide a fantastic case study of how a community battery can help a whole community become carbon neutral (https://totallyrenewableyack.org.au/watts-happening/yack01-community-battery/).