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Battery uptake booms during coronavirus as clean energy gathers pace

Australia’s uptake of household battery systems increased 20 per cent last year despite the economic downturn, in the latest sign that the transition away from fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy is gathering speed.

Defying predictions of a pandemic-led slump, installers have reported 31,000 new batteries across Australia for 2020, taking the nation’s total number of small-scale batteries that store power from solar panels and utility-scale “big” batteries to 110,000.

Installations of household solar and battery systems defied predictions of a coronavirus slump.

Installations of household solar and battery systems defied predictions of a coronavirus slump.Credit:Justin McManus

“It was a surprisingly good year for battery installations in Australia,” said Warwick Johnston of consultancy SunWiz, which provided the market analysis to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

“Home battery systems proved particularly popular in South Australia where there is such high demand from homeowners that the state government had to reduce its subsidy in order to avoid overheating the market.”

South Australians led the battery boom last year, with 26 per cent of all installations in 2020. Victoria (25 per cent) and New South Wales (24.7 per cent) trailed closely behind.

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“In Victoria, the popularity of solar batteries for homes was so high the state government subsidy allocations were exhausted within minutes of each release – a situation only remedied when the government directed some COVID stimulus funding towards the sector,” Mr Johnston said.

Australia has one of the highest rooftop solar penetration rates in the world. Domestic-scale solar grew 30 per cent across the nation last year, adding 3.5 gigawatts, with the total number of rooftop solar panels now surpassing 2.5 million.

After facing an initial collapse in solar panel and battery sales at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, the nation’s top power providers and installers were confident the decline would be short-lived as customers spent more time at home and looked for ways to keep a lid on rising residential energy bills.

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