Could battery storage in homes be a threat or the future of traditional poles and wires electricity networks?

That's the question Ergon Energy hopes to explore in some detail through its unique residential battery storage system trial in Townsville this year.

Ten adjacent homes in a Townsville street are participating in the 12 month trial to test battery storage systems, home energy management systems and alternative tariffs which Technology Engineer Dean Condon believes could help shape the future of Ergon's network. "Electricity networks have traditionally been designed and built to meet our customers' demand for power when they wanted it.That requires ongoing network upgrades to meet demand for power and especially peak demand, as homes use more appliances and power reflecting our modern lifestyle.

"Add air-conditioning to the mix which is now a standard feature of most new homes and it has meant more poles and wires, more transformers and substations to give customers power when they want it," Dean said.

The flip side has been higher electricity prices and affordability issues for our customers. However higher prices and government incentivisation of solar PV systems has been the catalyst for new technology which is now making home battery storage a reality.

"We're confident it is only matter of time before battery storage systems take off. We're thinking outside the square and consider this an opportunity rather than a threat. Imagine if each home had battery storage, a home energy management system, a solar PV system and dynamic electricity pricing.

"It would allow customers to charge their battery system from either their solar PV or Ergon's network at times of low demand and use battery power at peak times which doesn't impact lifestyle and reduces pressure on the network and the need for continual network expansion," he said.

Dean's confident the trial could translate into reducing the need to expand the network which comes at considerable cost and is passed onto customers through higher electricity prices.

"This new project will allow us to trial how our customers interact with distributed energy resources such as batteries, home energy management systems (HEMS) and dynamic electricity pricing."

A number of battery storage systems have been market evaluated and lab tested.

Four systems with different capabilities and sizes will be trialled.

"It's not a battery comparison trial but rather to see how different battery functionality and customer interaction works best for Ergon," Dean said. A preliminary report on the trial is expected by June.

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