How State Governments can save money and drive the battery revolution

There is a great opportunity for Australian state governments to offer home battery storage incentives to consumers and to funding this incentive by repurposing existing, committed government expenditure. The mechanism I’m talking about is a voluntary trade-in offer, built around the residual payment stream for existing (and often very generous) solar Feed-In Tariffs (FITs).

These solar Feed-In Tariffs have already achieved their goal of kickstarting solar panel adoption in Australia. Indeed Australia is now among the world leaders in its per capita deployment of PV solar panels.

From a public policy point of view, continuing to pay solar Feed-In Tariffs well beyond the point where the underlying consumer investment in their solar installation has been fully paid off represents a substantial forward liability that does not deliver improved public good outcomes. However, state governments are clearly sensitive to the political risk of simply cancelling these long-running tariff schemes, some of which hold liabilities to as far as 2028.

However, Governments have an attractive way out of that problem, which serves both a public policy and industry development agenda while removing these long term liabilities from the public purse.

This involves inviting consumers to voluntarily trade in the residual life of their FIT in exchange for funding to buy a home battery energy storage system. This would have the dual benefit of eliminating a long-term forward liability for governments while kickstarting a home energy storage industry in Australia.

The remaining forward liability for a given customer can be readily estimated based on past subsidy payment patterns for that customer.

Past subsidy payment patterns are also likely to underestimate the remaining forward liability from the FIT schemes to governments. Each time a consumer reduces their home energy usage during daytime hours (through buying new and more energy-efficient appliances, installing automatic energy optimising control systems, and also through government-funded incentives such as this LED lighting replacement scheme), their future FIT payments from the government are set to rise still further in the future.

Accordingly, it seems likely that governments can likely save money overall by offering such a voluntary trade-in, even if the trade-in offer funds the entire capital cost of a home battery energy system. That up-front payment now could well be below the net present value of the (rising) forward liability of the FIT payments to the customer concerned.

Over the past year, Australia has emerged as a global battery proving ground because of its widespread deployment of PV solar panels and high electricity costs. Home batteries based on Lithium battery chemistries have been launched here by companies including Tesla, Enphase and Panasonic.

Redflow, an Australian company of which I’m Executive Chairman and a major investor, has recently launched its ZCell home battery, which is based on Redflow’s unique ZBM2 flow battery. This is a different kind of battery entirely. We believe it is far better suited to the long term demands and the daily ‘deep cycling’ required to store daytime excess solar energy generation and to let you use it to power your home at night.

The solar FIT buyout concept note here has been widely discussed in the Australian renewables sector and is reportedly under consideration by the Queensland Government. It has the virtue of re-using funds previously committed to kickstarting the PV solar panel sector to encourage the new home energy storage sector – with associated jobs and business growth.

Its important to appreciate that in many areas, the solar installation industry is now starting to saturate – with installers starting to struggle to find new growth areas in what has become a highly competitive pricing realm. The big opportunity for renewal in this industry is (now) the installation of battery energy storage systems in the same homes that have previously installed solar – but the high cost of battery systems at this early stage of the battery industry cycle is getting in the way. This voluntary FIT trade-in scheme could be just the growth catalyst the industry needs.

Just as with solar PV incentives, it will prove politically popular with citizens who increasingly regard home energy storage as a way to increase their energy independence and reduce electricity costs.

Widespread energy storage will also benefit far-sighted electricity companies by reducing demand during peak power periods and providing them with the possibility of buying home-stored energy as a ‘virtual’ on-demand power source rather than relying on fossil-fuelled driven peaking gas generators.

At a national level, widespread energy storage, both at the consumer and the grid level, will help Australia achieve its international carbon reduction commitments by time-shifting renewable energy so it can be used 24/7, not just when the wind is blowing or when the sun is shining.

Swapping solar Feed-In Tariffs for home battery installations is not just a win-win: It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

ZCell Launched

I’ve been working very hard with a wonderful team for quite some time now on launching the home-optimised version of the unique and very nifty Redflow ZBM2 battery.

Today we launched a new web site to announce that product (shipping mid year).

We’ve called it “ZCell”.

ZCell Logo

ZCell Logo

You can read all about it at

For a variety of reasons (that you can read about at our FAQ section), we think this really is a better mousetrap. Its materially different (in better ways) to lead-acid and lithium based batteries.

We’ve been beavering away very busily here in Adelaide at Base64 on key aspects of taking this industrial-strength battery technology and reframing it as an easy to use, easy to install home energy storage system.

This technology is a huge passion of mine. I am quietly hopeful that we can make a positive difference to the world with it.

Why batteries will not cause mass defection from the grid

There’s a popular belief that the looming presence of batteries in people’s homes will lead to the widespread defection of those customers from the power grid.

In this view, living the dream means grid-independence where you harvest your own energy, one-finger salute the power companies and, when grid power fails for others in the street, your battery keeps the party going at your house.

While cutting the power cord sounds good in theory, in practice consumers gain many more advantages from staying connected to the grid.

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New Net, New Grid – FiRe 2015

In October this year I had the pleasure of having an in depth conversation about how the new energy grid and the new Internet grid is starting to evolve – and about the interesting similarities and overlaps that are evolving between the two.

A key thrust of the conversation related to the way that scalable energy storage is the transformative physical component driving changes in how the energy grids of the world will work in the future.

That conversation was undertaken between myself and Larry Smarr.

Larry was the perfect partner for this conversation. He is someone I have had the pleasure to have known in various contexts for some years now, and (as you will see in the video), we share some similar views on the topics concerned. I had a great time riffing with him on these topics.

The video of this conversation is available for your viewing pleasure here.

It is a 15 minute video that was excerpted from a half hour session at the Future In Review conference held in Park City, Utah in October 2015.

The Future In Review conference is pretty amazing – I’ve been a part of it for many years. This year I was (of course) wearing my Redflow hat loudly and proudly at the event🙂



The New Power Game: Grid-scale batteries hit an inflection point

I’ve written a letter recently called “The New Power Game”

It looks at:

  • The rise of renewable electricity generation at grid scale
  • How grid scale renewables are starting to do the grid more harm than good
  • Why the addition of batteries at grid scale is the key to resolving that challenge
  • How this combination can replace (not merely augment) fossil-fuelled generators
  • Why new battery types – especially Flow Batteries – are ideally suited to this task

I found this very interesting to research and to write, and I hope that you find it just as interesting to read.

Please click on the link below to read ‘A New Power Game’.


This letter was written originally for subscribers to the Strategic News Service (SNS). It is posted here with their kind permission.

How an Australian glider pilot obtains a US Glider Pilots License

I want to be able to fly gliders as “pilot in command” in the USA via a US FAA license issued reciprocally on the basis of my Australian one.

I also want to be able to fly powered aircraft in the USA on the same basis, but that is actually fairly simple. It is the glider part that isn’t, due to some unique aspects of the way gliding is administered in Australia.

Because the process turns out to be surprisingly hard (and non-obvious in places), I have documented it here, in the hope that it might help someone else in the future.

That said, please – only read on if you enjoy the sheer masochism of aviation paperwork… along with the unavoidable acronym soup involved in anything specialised…

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Tesla Model S cup holders learn a new trick

When I took delivery of my Tesla Model S, I knew that it had a lot of cool hardware that was slated to be enabled progressively in future software updates. Forward looking radar, steering-wheel control servos – all sorts of nifty things.

This morning, my son Felix found out about a very cool piece of hardware that has been quietly built into cars manufactured since late last year that include the ‘cold weather’ (or ‘subzero’) package.

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