WA energy minister Mike Nahan announcing the changes at the WA Solar + Energy Storage Creative Drive Conference.

Battery storage systems and electric vehicles will be able to export excess electricity to the grid from 1 December, following an agreement made between retailer Synergy and network operator Western Power.

Energy minister Mike Nahan announced today (Monday) the two state-owned bodies would sign off on a non-reference service, allowing storage systems to export to the South West Interconnected System.

“Until now, storage systems have been unable to export electricity onto the SWIS,” Dr Nahan said.

“I am pleased that Synergy and Western Power have reacted quickly to developing a non-reference service that can amend the anomaly without requiring the regulator to amend the network access arrangement.”

He said it had been an inconsistency that residential solar panels could export to the grid, but not battery systems.

“This arrangement now means eligible customers can install battery storage or EV facilities to complement their solar PV systems and export unused electricity onto the network.

“This is an important development given the emerging future trends which forecast widespread installation of solar PV, plus storage systems.”

Dr Nahan has changed his tune on renewables from his days heading up conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

This year he even went so far as to say that the bulk of generating capacity during the daytime would be met by solar within 10 years.

“It’s low priced, it’s democratically determined and it’s something we are committed to facilitating,” he told a conference audience in Perth.

Battery storage to be economically attractive by 2020

The news comes as an Alternative Technology Association report found that grid-connected battery storage would become economically attractive for many homes from around 2020.

“At today’s prices, most Australian households won’t be able to achieve a 10-year return on their investment – which is the typical lifetime of a well-designed and operated battery system,” ATA policy and research manage Damien Moyse said. “But by 2020, this will change for an increasing number of homes.”

Mr Moyse said prioritising energy efficiency would help the financial case stack up.

“Having a more energy-efficient home will mean you need smaller sized batteries, which will ultimately be better for your overall energy costs and the environment,” he said. “Batteries need to be considered in the context of an overarching, holistic energy management approach – whether that be for a household or business.”

Recent research by Curtin University’s Jemma Green, Josh Byrne and Peter Newman found that Western Australia could be one of the first places where solar with storage becomes financially attractive, predicting that Perth could become a “global centre for such green innovation”.