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Energy Dependence: What we are learning from COVID-19

Dominic O'Leary Residential Solar

Over the past 2 months, we have seen some drastic changes to how we operate, both on a personal and a societal level. Personally – we are less physically connected to our friends and family, we are less free to move around as we please and do the things we enjoyed in pre-COVID-19 times.

Societally, our streets are emptier; our cafes, restaurants and bars are shut down, empty of the customers now stuck at home maintaining distance; Our economy appears to be taking a huge hit as the government tries to keep as many struggling businesses, homes and now-unemployed Australians out of the proverbial. As we all spend more and more time at home, we become increasingly aware of our dependence on electricity for so many of our household norms.

Screen time, be it work or leisure; internet to provide access to most of our day-to-day services; lighting; airconditioning; refrigeration. Thankfully our network seems to be holding up to the increased demand from a huge influx of electricity users at home all day every day.

But what would we do if we lost that power?

Devices and Appliances We Don’t Want To Go Without

We have become too used to just flicking on the TV to watch some Netflix, tune into the news or binge watch our latest reality TV favourite as a way to unwind after a stressful day or take our mind off of the woes and challenges of the current crisis.

Books, puzzles and creative arts are no doubt being given renewed life and popularity as well, but for the majority of our technologically-inclined society, screentime is one of the biggest aides in passing the time before society can go back to normal and we are allowed out of the house for less ‘essential needs’.

So now is a great time to consider how we receive all of our entertainment and time-passing luxuries.

That flat-screen that some of us spend most of us our time in front of at the moment; the iPad that amuses your children to give you a modicum of peace and quiet (even for just 10 minutes); the laptop or desktop you sit in front of whilst working from home and keeping the business alive and ticking; the lights we turn on and turn off every time we enter another room; the coffee machine that you… well, you get where I am going with this.

Electricity now rules and makes possible a large amount of how we live our lives these days. If the power is to go out, we find ourselves stuck in a dark room without most of the things we use every day.

Your phone may carry its charge for another 24 hours, if used sparingly, assuming you have an iPhone.

If you’re an android user then you’re more likely to survive a couple of days. The laptop might have a couple of hours of life in it and the tablets which your kids rely on for their entertainment, and learning of course.

But once the batteries die, how are you going to charge them? Turning the car on is an option to trickle charge one or two items at a time. Not great but hey, its something, right?

What To Do Once The Power Goes Out

Local Council/Network Service Provider

Your local council or state’s Network Service Provider will likely have procedures or guidelines for what to do in the event of a blackout. Assuming you still have access to the internet, you can visit their webpage and see what they have to help. SA Power Networks, in South Australia, has an ‘Outages Page’ which allows you to check your suburb’s outage status and/or to report if there is an outage that has not been reported. You can also check for any planned outages as a result of works in your area.

Candles, Camping Torches and Battery Power Lights

If you’re well prepared, power outages may not cause quite as much of a fuss. Being able to see what you’re doing and move about without the fear of stubbing toes and knocking furniture over may seem like a small novelty but if the lights go out at 2 am, you’ll want something to make it easier.

Generators

A Petrol or Diesel generator is a reliable way to bring back some of your functionality if the power goes out. Although the cost of running a generator is typically higher than what you pay for grid-supplied electricity and they’re quite noisy, having electricity is better than the alternative. Generators can vary in price depending on the size of your home and how much power you want when the grid drops out.

The State Government has some good guides and advice for implementing a Generator for blackout purposes: https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/energy-and-environment/using-electricity-and-gas-safely/using-generators-for-back-up-power

Battery Storage and Renewable Energy

With impressive leaps forward in battery technology, achieving greater levels of centralizedgrid independence has never been easier, or more affordable. Don’t get me wrong, without the help of the SA Government’s Home Battery Scheme home batteries are still not really financially viable with payback periods extending out past the lifetime of the battery’s product warranty.

But with up to $4,000 still available, you can still cut down on the cost of your battery storage investment. Now that’s not something to scoff at! For more information on the Home Battery Scheme, follow this link.

The right Solar System and Battery Storage configuration can provide instantaneous transfer from grid energy to renewable energy in a blackout, with barely even a flicker of the lights. If your system is well designed, you could be self-sufficient and independently power your home for days on end, whilst your neighbours sit in the dark lighting candles and burning through their AA & AAA battery stores.

Battery Technology Is Still Years From Being Useful! It’s No Good!

We hear this pretty often. People claiming that battery storage is a waste of money. Not worth it. Doesn’t work. Isn’t safe. And on and on we go.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not every household is suited to a battery storage unit. Yes, they are expensive. There is no argument about that. Battery prices will typically start at $7,000 after all subsidies and can scream up over $10,000 pretty quickly. For a household with an electricity bill of $200-$500 per quarter, the financial returns are not there and so the economics of a battery doesn’t stack up. Now, some clients want to be completely independent and the economics are less of an issue. There is a solution for every household, but there is a price tag with that solution of course.

A household with an electricity bill of $800-$1000 per quarter could see their battery storage and solar system investment pay for itself in less than four years. Not every household will be in this situation but there are options there for such households.

The more power you use, the better your returns are going to be, the higher your savings and the more viable a battery storage solution will be for you. But the most important thing to remember is this: You will pay for your power, one way or the other. If you choose not to invest in solar, or you think that battery storage isn’t worth it and you want to wait 5 years for prices to drop.

You’re still going to pay 5 years worth of electricity bills. Canstar Blue covers the average cost of household electricity bills per state in more detail here. Whether the averages they talk about fit your billing or miss it by a long shot, you’re still paying for electricity. Money which could be better used in other avenues.

With financing options through companies like RateSetter, home loan refinancing and more available, you’re ROI on a solar system is typically 30-35%, quite often higher. A battery connected solar system typically sits at an ROI of around 25%, depending on your billing spend.

If you’re happy to keep spending your hard-earned dollars on coal-fired electricity, then by all means. If you’d rather invest in a renewable energy generator which will supply clean, green, self-sufficient energy for 25 years, or more, give us a call today and we can help you start saving your hard-earned money for the things you would rather see it used for.