Australia, the sunniest continent, is luring solar battery suppliers from Tesla Motors Inc. to LG Corp. as the global roll out of the technology for home and business power storage gathers pace.
At stake is a domestic market that could be worth A$24 billion ($18 billion), according to Morgan Stanley. Australia leads the world in putting solar panels on roofs, and by 2040, about one in two homes are forecast to rely on sun power.
Elon Musk’s Tesla plans early next year to bring its new batteries to Australia, which will join Germany as its first two markets outside the U.S. LG Chem will offer new technology to Australian homes in August, while Panasonic Corp. plans to begin selling its batteries in the country in October.
“Australia has all the criteria that you would look for — high sunshine, high energy prices and low financing costs,” Michael Parker, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong, said by phone. “It’s a good test market.”
With solar power set to draw $3.7 trillion in investment through 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, interest in power storage is surging.
LG Chem wants to capture 30 percent of the Australian market, the South Korean company said in an e-mail response to questions. The industry could could grow 15-fold in the next two years to more than 30,000 storage systems, it said.
Samsung SDI Co., meanwhile, is testing its storage units with Australian retailer Origin Energy Ltd., which expects to offer the products to customers later this year, and AU Optronics Corp. of Taiwan is working with AGL Energy Ltd.
Government subsidies and falling prices fueled a wave of growth in solar panel installations in Australia, and the country is set to see further expansion. About 6 million, or half of Australian homes, are forecast to have solar systems by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“The ability to store the energy that’s generated by solar is a huge opportunity within this market,” Heath Walker, Tesla’s marketing manager in Melbourne, said by phone. In coming months, the company plans to unveil battery partnerships with utilities or solar developers in Australia, he said.
Battery storage does face obstacles, though, with the cost and the size of the systems needed to maintain a reliable power source deterring some consumers, the Grattan Institute found.
“Everybody says it’s an emerging market, but I’m not sure many people have bought batteries yet,” Origin’s Managing Director Grant King said in an interview. “Will we see a wholesale migration of customers off the grid because of batteries? My answer is no.”
Declining battery costs, surging electricity prices and falling tariffs for feeding excess power to the grid could drive storage, the Australian Energy Market Operator found.
Battery storage will allow homes with solar panels to store excess electricity for later use, reducing peak power consumption and potentially energy costs, Panasonic said.
“Storage is coming,” Panasonic’s local Managing Director Paul Reid said in a June 2 interview. “There may be things that impact the speed of the roll out, but it will dramatically change the landscape of the energy sector in Australia.”
©2015 Bloomberg News
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