Saving with solar and batteries

The upfront cost of solar power systems has dropped by 80% since 2008, and Ausgrid now receives about 10,000 connection applications each year. 

Ausgrid energy efficiency specialist Robert Simpson said there are more than 100,000 solar power systems connected to Ausgrid’s network, as households make use of the technology to lower their electricity bills. 

An average-size household installing a new 4kW solar power system can typically save between $400 and $800 per year on power bills depending on how much solar electricity is used to reduce energy purchased from the grid. 

About 40% of Ausgrid’s solar customers were early adopters and have been receiving the NSW Government’s Solar Bonus Scheme feed-in tariffs. This scheme ends in December and solar customers should be considering changing to net metering to get the most savings. 

Net metering can lower the amount of energy you buy from the grid and maximise your savings if you use your appliances when the system is generating power. For example, running your pool pump during the sunny 10am-2pm midday period will draw power directly from your solar system. This reduces the amount of electricity you draw from the grid and therefore your bills, allowing you to re-coup the upfront cost of the system. 

In coming years, prices of battery storage systems are also expected to become more affordable. Combining battery and solar systems means that excess solar electricity that would normally be exported to the grid can now be stored for use during peak times, when the electricity you pull from the grid is most expensive. 

If you’re thinking of installing a solar power system or battery storage system, it’s important to do your sums first. By estimating the annual bill savings based on your own circumstances and energy use behaviour, you can then calculate how long it will take to pay back the upfront cost of the system.

Payback periods of six to ten years for solar power systems are possible, depending on the size of the system and your household electricity use. Battery systems have long payback periods at the moment, but prices are expected to drop rapidly over the coming years. 

If you decide that a solar power or battery system is right for you, get several quotes as prices can vary significantly between companies and products. You should always use a Clean Energy Council accredited installer.  

No matter what source your electricity comes from, it’s important to use it efficiently. Set cooling and heating systems to appropriate temperatures, switch off your standby power and ditch your clothes dryer for a clothesline where possible.