Why Australia needs to make lithium ion batteries big time

It is amazing how much difference a little policy innovation from governments can make to manufacturing fortunes – in this case in making lithium ion batteries.

While there are a number of big factories making vehicle batteries overseas, it is action by the South Australian and, more recently, the Queensland governments which have ignited the global market for battery backup systems for renewable power generation.

South Australia was the first worldwide to install the mega-battery, the 100 megawatt Tesla at Hornsdale in the state’s mid-North, that provided the answer to the intermittent nature of wind power generation.

Now an SA government of a different political colour, has become among the first to link thousands of small household solar photo voltaic (PV) systems together to create a distributed, virtual power station.

The state is supporting 40,000 homes to install PV plus battery back up at a cost of $100 million. Queensland and ACT has similar but small schemes, with Victoria and WA set to follow.

Now Bloomberg New Energy Finance has reported that Australia will triple the number of homes equipped with PV plus battery systems this year.

Australia will account for 30 per cent of global demand in 2019 for home batteries, opening opportunities for us to be a globally relevant manufacturer of such systems.

BNEF said: “BNEF expects over 70,000 Australian households will install batteries this year – driven by A$147 million in state government subsidies, as well as low-interest loans and demand response schemes.

“If the federal opposition wins the election this year, a further A$200 million will subsidize another 100,000 household batteries from 2020.”

The SA scheme has already seen three solar plus battery manufacturing operations establish in Adelaide.

Sonnen and Alpha-ESS are assembling lithium ion batteries on the way to full manufacture, while Eguana Technologies is making the control systems that link home PV installations together.

Just as policy leadership begets innovation, innovation begets more innovation.

Now Adelaide homebuyers will be able to buy housing and land packages that come complete with solar PV plus battery systems.

DLH projects is offering buyers in suburban Warradale homes with a 5kW rooftop system, supplied by Q Cells, alongside 7.5kWh of battery storage from Sonnen.

Now is the time to double down. We need to make sure the nascent battery manufacturing companies move to full manufacture and beef up volumes so they can supply exports.

Our inertia torpor has already dealt Australia our of many areas of new technology. We have only one factory making solar PV panels, for example, yet regularly see large-scale solar arrays with hundreds of thousands of panels, enough to make us super-efficient world leaders.

Let’s not make the same mistake yet again.

Picture: Sonnen

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