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Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Hey everyone – after being off the bloggage for almost a year, I’m BACK to talk about the Hyundai Ioniq in purest form: BEV.

Oh, wait. WordPress has had some kind of upgrade. This editor … is, uh… interesting. It will “take some getting used to”.

If you’ve been watching the Australian EV market, you’ll understand that it pretty much sucks right this minute for choice. You can have a gander at Electric Cars Australia to get a really good look at where we are at.

The Lay of the Electric Vehicle Land

You basically have the top end of town in Tesla Model S or Model X, which even second hand will start you around AUD$70K. About $120K for the base Model S right now. Yikes.

Image from CNBC

Maybe you’ve only got $53K to spend, so you’d go for the Renault Zoe?

Renault ZOE – My Electric Car

Nah, me either. Don’t get me wrong: it is a great little car with a good range on it. But it is a *little* car and my teenager/tween aren’t going to fit in that. I have driven one and its a zippy little thing but for that money I’d want a bit more. The finish is very basic even if the feature list is good.

Suppose I should put my car(d)s on the table and tell you I have so far driven the following EVs – in order of test date:

  • Tesla Model S 90D – courtesy of the team at Reposit Power who did me a solid
  • BMW i3 via someone at my current place of work
  • Renault ZOE – have 2 of them in the pool car fleet at work
  • And now, courtesy of my own interest, the Hyundai Ioniq
Via Inside EVs

OK, the scene is almost set. How am I doing on the blog thing? I’m rusty as a rusty thing at this.

How Did We Get Here?

My wife is looking to get a new car. She’s had a 2014 Ford Fiesta S – a fine car and cheap to run – but quite small. My teen & tween get a bit squeezed in the back seat. We bought it from her workplace when they retired their fleet management, and it was great value for money and runs on the smell of an oily rag.

I like the little “rocket roller skate” because it has a small turbo engine that goes like the clappers, but I also hate it because it has Euro configuration i.e. indicator on the left stalk. Blergh.

The other car in our stable is my 2012 Nissan X-Trail – the last of the blocky ones! It fulfills my need to go camping (until I can afford a Rivian) and was basically my dream car for years.

I live in the Northwestern suburbs of Sydney. I have a Hyundai dealer less than 15 minutes’ drive away, and contacted them last year to test drive a Hyundai Kona. That was a nice car, but the back seat is about as good as the Fiesta, so nuts to that.

When news broke that the Kona EV and Ioniq EV would be landing in Australia during 2019 (late 2018 for the latter), I hastily registered my interest and then sat patiently, waiting.

LOL nah I hassled the dealer every chance I got via email. Their patience should be noted. Hi Larry!

I got a call late 2018 that the car was available, and lined up a test drive for when I returned from a well-earned holiday to New Zealand (which is worth it in every way; get there).

Finally, the big day arrived.

Driving the Hyundai Ioniq

I’ll be up front and say I didn’t take a lot of photos. Nor am I going to run through in depth video and journo-style analysis. YouTube has plenty of that for those desperate.

I will give a shout out to Fully Charged Show whose mainstay, Robert Llewellyn, approaches things with the same kind of geeky layman’s attitude that I have.

The first issue is that my local dealer did NOT stock the Ioniq. For that I had to go to a dealer 30 minutes away, which is kind of a bummer.

I later found out is that not every Hyundai dealer will sell Hyundai Ioniq. That means not every dealer is going to be a service centre, which is not exactly convenient.

We got in there and signed the paperwork. The dealer took us out to the car and gave us the run-down. That took the best part of 10 minutes because there is a LOT of kit in this car.

We were driving the Premium version (the lower grade option is “Elite”). The drive train is the same – 28kWh battery feeding an 88kW motor for stated range of 230km – but the Premium offers a few cool things like 16″ wheels, heated and cooled leather seats, sunroof etc.

The standard kit is pretty impressive tho with all sorts of doodads to keep you happy, and a big touch screen for learning all about it. You look at the feature list, and see that yes there is a premium for EV drive train, but the Hyundai Ioniq also comes with a list of features that is hella impressive.

After carefully driving it out of the dealership onto a busy main road, we started to explore.

That Sweet, Sweet Torque

It is hard to describe driving an EV to someone who hasn’t done it. But the word “instant” is relevant. You put your foot on the accelerator, and the car goes. No lag, no changing through gears, automatic, CVT, or otherwise.

It just feels so good. It feels right, and it is so bloody far ahead of ICE that it hurts to go back to one. I’ll mention here that we went and drove a brand new Mazda 3 straight after this test drive, and felt like a step back in time.

Back to the Hyundai Ioniq: while we didn’t take the chance to get it onto the freeway, we had a fairly good run and punching the “gas” around suburban streets, and it made me smile.

My wife also had a turn – it was going to end up as her car after all – and was also impressed by how it felt. Again: we’re comparing it to cars that are up to 6 years old, but you can’t compare the driving experience.

We cranked the stereo, we twiddled the knobs, we pressed the buttons, we checked the boot, probably did bad things to the sun roof… it was all there.

I tested out the regenerative braking at all 4 levels (0 thru 3) and it took some getting accustomed to. However in combination with the regular brakes, the regen set to 3 stops you fast.

It isn’t going to take off like a Tesla – and even the BMW i3 was a bit zippier – but this was a very nice drive.


While we were only out in the car for about 20 minutes in suburban streets, we got what we were looking for. The feeling of a step to EV ownership, the new feature list coming in new cars, and the understanding of what we’d get for our money.

It is certainly a car I’d consider, and you should probably consider too. I would probably take the Premium over the Elite as the extra AUD~$5k is more than justified by what you get.

As it is the only model I’ve got to judge, please keep that in mind when I say things like “leather seats”, because the Elite doesn’t have all these features.

Pros: long feature list, electric drive train, great sound system, wireless charging pad (if your phone is compatible), good back seat space, multiple levels of regen braking, leather seats (heat and cool). I’ve heard the rear seat head room described poorly, but we didn’t have an issue with the boy and he’s nearly around 175cm.

Cons: no electric front passenger seat, dealer location could be inconvenient, price tag for a range of 230km is borderline, could do with USB charging ports in the rear seating area, rear hatch visibility wasn’t great.

Most importantly – Wife Comments: “liked how it felt to drive – smooth & light, not cumbersome”; “plenty of room for the kids”; “seating and interior in general was very nice”; “great sound system”; “some blind spots in the rear hatch design would take some getting used to”.

With all that said, we’re not ready to jump just yet. There is some time to consider other models that are coming, and our own financial circumstances. It will be an interesting 2019 in the car market, as various initiatives are rolled out to help EV infrastructure and ownership.


Kind of forgot this bit in the first edit: the Elite model comes in at just under AUD$45k while the Premium is quoted at just under $49k – both before ORCs (On Road Costs, not a Hobbit reference).

If I was to look at pricing up the Premium in Polar White – other paints are all $595 extra, I’m looking at a drive-away price of AUD$53,453.30 which is not cheap. There are no incentives for electric cars in my home state or at Federal level, so I’d basically wear that entire cost. Minus what I’d get as a trade in for the Fiesta.

If I get a fully-loaded petrol car in a similar size, from Hyundai, we’re looking around $39k drive away for the i30 Premium (same paint). The difference is therefore about $14k as what you’d call the “EV price premium”.

So it is a tempting prospect.

Hyundai Ioniq Specifications can be found here.

So You Want To Go Solar…

A few people – friends, friends of friends, complete strangers – have asked me what the best solar system to buy is. “How many solar panels?” or “Should I get a battery?” and “What is that thing growing out of your head?”.

To them I say:

Note: that totally isn’t me. Nor am I associated with (c) Snorg. But its funny, so click on it.

Everybody’s house is a little different. Everybody’s use case is a bit different. Solar isn’t just a cookie cutter approach; at least, not yet.

What I can say is that there are a few steps I’d recommend to anyone thinking about installing solar panels and/or a battery.

(Oh wait: I forgot the paragraph wailing about how slack I’ve been on the blog. That was it – well except to say I got a new job in November 2017 working in energy which is pretty rad, but keeps me way busy).

Motivation For Solar

People want solar for different reasons, and from my experience of the last two years, it breaks down into a few things.

Driving down electricity bills is usually numero uno, and there is nothing wrong with that. Investing thousands into something functional like a solar PV system, you’d want to see some payback and/or stick it to “The Man” if you’re angry about whatever it is “The Man” has done.

Green feelgood is another factor. Reducing your grid needs helps save operating costs on your house, as well as your carbon footprint. You also get to understand your ability to contribute to the energy ecosystem via renewable energy.

Curiosity is a relatively new thing, particularly for modern systems with API-driven inverters. Some people (me) like to watch what is happening on their solar system at various intervals, e.g.

After that, its a question of “Do you really *need* solar?”

Where To Start

First place is your electricity bill.

Look at the amount you consume on a daily basis across the year. Figure out whether there are major differences between summer, autumn, spring, and winter, and I’ll bet you start to see where the pain points are in terms of running certain devices in summer (AC) or winter (heating).

As I’ve said before: most of us get our bill, have a bit of a rage about it, and then pay it and move on. You need to take the time to analyse who you are, and what you use. It will be very helpful.

Have you spoken to your electricity provider about getting the best deal? Sometimes we pay too much via “lazy tax” where we can’t be bothered even making a phone call.

Have you told your electricity provider that you’re speaking to other electricity providers about the best deal? That can be quite the motivator.

Does your electricity provider offer “green” power options? That might elevate your bill slightly, but give you part of that feelgood factor you’re after.

Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency!

Next, I’m going to ask whether you’re doing everything you can to reduce your electricity consumption.

Energy Efficiency is a very much overlooked part of housing, particularly in warmer places like Australia. Building standards here aren’t so great compared to other parts of the world, and we compensate using air conditioners.

I have to say I’m guilty here of jumping into solar + storage before really checking why my bills were so high. The good news is, I’m addressing these issues now by getting awnings on my west-facing windows as well as installing downlight covers in the ceiling to reduce insulation gaps.

Perhaps it is something as simple as setting your thermostat too hot/cold, and trading money for a tiny bit of discomfort. In modern HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning), each degree you set your AC up or down from 25oC can cost 10% more energy. Not cool. Or hot. Whatever.

Check all the gaps around your doors and windows. Deploy window coverings against the sun, or heavy curtains against the cold, wherever possible. Turn off the beer fridge if you’re not really using it. When you replace a device, look at the energy efficiency rating system (it can save you hundreds).

The possibilities are not endless, but they’re available, and significant.

The goal is to consume the minimum amount possible without making yourself too uncomfortable. And maybe a little discomfort isn’t such a bad thing 😉

Alright, so let’s say you’ve covered the energy efficiency thing, and have a fair handle on your bills. That’s half the battle. Let’s talk about solar.


Not every roof can handle a solar PV setup. I’ve lived in a house that could not, due to a lack of appropriate space.

Start by looking at your roof space on Google Maps, and see if you have north- or west-facing roof space that might host a decent array of panels, if you’re in in the Southern Hemisphere.  For those north of the equator, its south- or west-facing, obviously.

In some cases you might even want to have east-facing panels as well, due to your usage patterns. Morning people; they exist.

The more complex your roof layout, the more it is likely to cost for installation. Two storey installs can cost more in some cases. Single storey might get tricky if you’ve got multiple roof lines with minimal contiguous area.

Roofing material may also determine how difficult the install becomes, as different fixings and sealing methods are required.

If in any doubt, talk to a local installer. That’s where Google Reviews and recommendations can come in handy – find the right team and you’ll reap the benefits.

A Galaxy Of Solar Systems

The trouble with me recommending anything is that the internet will immediately have an opinion on it. You will read reviews that are negative about perfectly good solar PV equipment, maybe because an individual had a bad experience.

There are thousands of combinations of solar panels, inverters, and (if you require it) storage systems from which to choose. You’ve also got different metering options, which can affect how you get billed, and how you might leverage peak/offpeak power rates.

“How many panels do I get?” is a pertinent question, and my response is always that panels are cheap, so get as many as you can afford.

Remembering that in most new setups, you’re in a “net” situation i.e. the panels feed your house first, then sell any leftover energy back to the grid at a modest rate.

Trying to self-consume every last kWh you produce is a waste of time for a grid-connected system, in my opinion. You’ll end up with a smallish system that meets your needs generally, but you’ll miss a lot of the cost offset you get from feed in tariffs, and payback time will be no different, or longer.

Panels are cheap. Get as many as you can afford.

At the same time, get an inverter that will handle that load. Having 6kW of panels isn’t going to mean much if your inverter is designed for half that. I’ve got 6.5kW of panels and my inverter maxes out at 5kW, which is generally OK, but I’d like a bit more 😉

In Australia, I’d recommend a minimum of 5kW of panels. A system of that type will cost you around $6000-$7000 in Australia (installed). In the USA, Trumplandian authorities will ensure it continues to be about double that.

Adding A Battery

Adding storage can double (or more) the cost of a system pretty quickly.

At this point (February 2018) it will extend the payback time accordingly because lithium batteries are still coming out of the early adopter phase. It becomes a question of capital investment versus operating cost.

If you get only the solar panels, you can get payback in under 6 years.

This makes the assumption that you’re operating the system with a decent amount of thought. Move heavy loads to the middle of the day when the sun is shining and the panels are blazing. Make the most of your feed-in-tariffs, where available. Be aware of your efficiency issues, and address them.

If you do all this right, you could get payback down below 5 years, BUT you’ll still be paying an electricity bill, even if its smaller now.

Today, the battery option will take your payback up past 6 years again, and maybe as high as 8 depending on the specifics.

There is a benefit, though: your operating costs for electricity will be closer to zero than if you have solar alone. Heck, maybe you might even turn a small profit!

There are additional benefits to your battery install as well, if you have smart technology like Reposit Power attached to the system. Selling power for $1 / kWh a few times a year might not sound like much, but when your total bill is close to zero, its heading toward profit.

It can help you save money on electricity via arbitrage if you have the right metering setup. Reposit maintain a list of good installers to use in Australia, who will ensure you get the best result.

But How Much Will I Save???

Well, I can’t really answer that, unequivocally. A lot depends on individual circumstances.

I’m saving about $2000 per year over the first two years, having made small changes to how I run my house. I continue to make these changes as I explore ways to reduce my usage.

If you’re just going to whack the system in for something cool to look at, but not change any of your habits, expect your savings to match your behaviour.

P.S. if you want to move providers, and grab a $35 credit while getting a 12c feed-in-tariff, hit me up on Twitter for my Diamond Energy account number. They’re green, clean, and lean, as well as being partnered with Reposit for Grid Credits.

To Find A Satisfying FiT

No, not a satisfying fit for your pants!

FiT in this context is Feed in Tariff, or what you get paid for exporting the excess electricity generated by your solar panels.

(c) Your Solar Quotes

If you click on that image, you’ll see sample rates currently provided in Australia. A couple of them might be out of date, for example with Diamond Energy, a company based in Victoria, I now receive 12 cents per kWh. I’m in NSW but that offer is wherever they can service my account.

Note that in many cases this is a net tariff i.e. excess solar only, not a gross tariff. You can read about the difference here.

There are people still on gross FiT tariffs, getting upwards of 40 cents per kWh. These were incentives for getting the solar industry moving in Australia, and did their job. Some of them were planned out for over a decade, and have given their owners fantastic service.

Governments attached rules they thought would be broken easily, like losing the gross FiT if there was a change of owner, or if you altered the system. Consumers got around this by buying the system they could afford and never moving house.

As a result, we’ve got a LOT of systems out there under 2kW that need updating to give a net tariff of under 20 cents a fighting chance. A lot of these people are looking at batteries.

I suppose, if you’re somewhere like the USA, some of those figures look pretty sweet. Keep in mind that the average import tariff right now in Australia is around 30 cents, after recent price hikes.

As a result of this visible mismatch, many people wonder why FiT isn’t much higher. After all, those of us with Solar PV on our roof help lower everybody’s bills!

Why do I get paid “only” 12 c / kWh* for my export, when I pay somewhere between 18 cents (off-peak) to 35 cents (peak) for import?

* BTW if you like the look of that 12 cents action, get in contact with me via Twitter – if you sign up with Diamond using my details, we both get an account credit.

There are several reasons, and for this discussion we’re ONLY talking about the east coast grid (the NEM). That’s where the facts and figures are coming from.

Profits Matter

First: I don’t work for a big energy company. I get accused of it regularly when I tweet about energy, but I just don’t.

I do understand that people need to make money. No business profitability = no jobs = no cashflow for other businesses. That’s simple economics. Of course, maybe companies don’t need to make quite as much money as they do, I suppose.

Another truth of our energy market is we have generators and retailers in the delivery chain. This has been the way of things for years, and decouples the generation (industry) from customer service aspect.

Speaking for the eastern half of Australia (not Western Australia or the Northern Territory who aren’t on the NEM), this means competition is supposed to happen at two levels: wholesale and retail.

The National Electricity Market (NEM) connects the 5 southeastern States of Australia, as well as the Australian Capital Territory.

It is the wholesale market. Spot prices are generated to deliver value to generators, so they can pay their staff to manage the backbone of the grid. Additionally, there is the cost of network maintenance as a big line item.

There are instances where generators have held back supply until the spot price gets to ridiculous levels. This behaviour is not illegal, but not exactly ethical, and affects pricing. It is being cracked down upon.

Retailers operate as clients of this market, and have their own battleground.

They need to account for the variation in spot prices in their retail offering, and look at best- and worst-case scenarios.

How do they keep the lights on, pay for staff, and ensure they’re getting a slice of the pie?

Keep the offering as low as they can manage. This not only means trying to keep prices down to attract customers, but also the FiT paid to those customers with solar.

Retailers may have other ways to sell e.g. percentage discount for paying on time. Maybe a few more percent discount for debiting a bank account, which has slightly lower fees than processing a credit card.

Wholesale Pricing Matters

What do the electricity generators actually make? This is important to understand, if we consider the panels on my rooftop to hold a value similar to the big boys.

Check out the second chart here from the knowledgeable @simonahac (and give him a follow because he knows his stuff).

The dollar values above those green bars represent the average spot price per Megawatt hour of electricity in the NEM. In his words: “the average of each day’s volume-weighted average price received by the entire generation fleet’s delivery into the NEM.”

The average* of those five dollar values is a tick over $90.00 / MWh. Dividing by 1000 gives us a price of around $0.09 / kWh.

If that is what I get paid as a generator, I need to make profit on that, so I need to find the best way to deliver appropriate volume.

That is important when we consider the next major leg of the argument.

* Yes I’m fully aware that averaging a set of averages is not accurate because of volumes in each primary set. Just go with it.

Reliability Matters

OK, so let’s assume for a second the “power companies” are all money-hungry, price-gouging fat cats swimming through a pool of cash.

I group generators and retailers together in that statement, because most people don’t understand the difference.

BUT its significant to get your head around the concept, because of the way the NEM operates. Read about that here, without worrying about ancillary services just at this point.

In summary: retailers bid for large volumes (MWh) of generator output, which is based on a forecast. In doing so, retailers expose themselves to financial risk. They need to find that sweet spot to on-sell smaller volumes (at a higher rate) to their customers.

Market volatility can be huge, and as a retail you’ve got competitors. This is not as simple as selling widgets down the Sunday markets.

You can read the details if you like about wholesale pricing in the NEM.

As a random dude/dudette with solar panels on my roof, I’m already getting paid a fairly competitive rate compared to wholesale market spot price. If the big boys get around 9 cents, my 12 cents is pretty sweet.

There is no way I can enter the market with promised volumes like a big generator. Similarly, I can’t guarantee exactly when I’ll be able to provide my paltry 0-20kWh per day.

Is 8 to 12 cents per kWh a fair price, given I don’t meet a lot of the criteria for market supply? I’d say its in the ballpark. I’m around where the wholesale price is, after all.

A side point here that the average person doesn’t understand: small consumers pay their electricity rates differently to big consumers.

A big consumer will pay what looks like a very small rate – often under 10 cents per kWh. Its a volume discount, effectively.

The catch is that the number of kWh they are charged for is based on the peak number of kWh consumed in a half-hour period that month.

If a business has one bad day in summer where all the air conditioners and machinery are running, they’ll get stung, and hard. The retailer may only look like making a couple of cents on each kWh, but if they’re charging on the peak consumption, a lot of kWh are empty space. They never arrived.

As big consumers become more savvy, and introduce measures to monitor and control those peaks, they can pare back these costs. Retailers might lose margin. Its a game of chess.

A FiT Analogy

Disclaimer: I am not wired to provide good analogies, so let’s get this over with…

Let’s say you run a taxi service, and for argument’s sake we’ll call it Wholesale Taxis. Your taxi will run any time of day, turn up on time to bookings, and take the most effective route to the destination. You charge $10 per trip for this service.

Let’s say I’ve got a taxi service, and I’ll call it Rooftop Taxis. My taxi only runs during the day – and goes at half pace (or not at all) when its raining. If a cloud comes over, my taxi will slow right down, and you might miss that meeting you booked me for.

Would you pay the same $10 for that trip? Not likely. I’d have to cut my rates to reflect what I am likely to deliver.

I can still be useful, but I’m not going to get business ahead of Wholesale Taxis, because of the risks my service presents.

Bad analogy over.

Hold Up There, Haters …

Before you conservative types go using that analogy as an argument against the reliability of renewables, keep in mind I’m only talking about small scale producers here i.e. rooftop solar PV, or those rare beasts with domestic wind operations.

This isn’t a reliability problem; its an issue around intermittent behaviour for the market to manage.

And if you want to talk about “baseload”, read this instead, and get back if you gain understanding.

Increasing FiT Value

I don’t think FiT should increase. I think things are fairly good the way they are, with prices in the ballpark of the wholesale market.

I’m of the opinion that FiT in either gross or net guises is probably on the way out.

Introducing generation capacity that doesn’t operate through the NEM needs management. That requires a lot of systems to be able to handle abrupt changes in the network.

A link I provided above to the NEM wholesale pricing talks about ancillary services. One of these services is Frequency Control Ancillary Services, or FCAS. It is extremely important from two perspectives:

  1. Introduction of supply that can be intermittent (mostly renewables)
  2. Evolution of the grid from metronomic consumption to demand response

The first point has been done to death. The second point is key.

While a few of our politicians would like to pretend its still 1950, the Australian grid has moved on. Coal stations are reaching end of life, or are well past it. Generators are exiting the coal market in Australia, and with good reason.

(Also follow Prof Willis – he is another bloke who knows his stuff).

At the same time, consumption patterns of users are changing, which render slow-response systems like coal and nuclear of limited value.

It takes hours for a coal or nuclear power station to respond to demand changes. Even gas stations take minutes to vary output, and the new grid needs it in seconds.

Technology is moving to address this, in order to better integrate renewables and other sources into the wider grid in Australia.

Schemes to control demand, including those backed at the highest levels, will assist the grid in coping with peaks.

A measure of stability will still be required, though, particularly from multiple, small generators. What is needed is a way to buffer power and hold it back for peaks.

Storage FTW!

Yes, as a Powerwall owner, with Reposit Power GridCredits hooked up, I was always going this way. But it makes a whole lot of sense.

As solar and battery prices continue to fall, a new resource is growing in the market: the Virtual Power Plant (VPP). I’ve covered this before, and have not yet seen any convincing argument against it.

Besides Reposit Power, companies like GreenSync, PowerLedger, and even inverter manufacturers like SolarEdge are looking at multi-site power trading and optimisation for solar PV and batteries.

Would the market continue to purchase intermittent solar PV from small producers, where enough battery storage exists in the NEM?

I believe the market players would tend toward the reliability of supply that storage offers. Importantly, batteries can report back how much they’ve got, and how much they can deliver.

Consumers would leverage their investment in battery technology, and participate in the market, at better rates than they get now. Perhaps a pure solar FiT would still exist, but not at the levels we have today.

It may not be enough, though. That’s where the big boys step in, and start using hydroelectric power as the world’s biggest battery (sorry, Elon).

FiT Hydro
Snowy Hydro Scheme, Australia (c)

While hydro power is not perfectly green, as some believe, it represents a step forward to a lower-carbon future.

In Australia, several people in the know are looking at pumped hydro, which is a form of large-scale storage that doesn’t require a natural river source.

Excess solar or wind during the day can be used to pump water uphill. At night, or on demand, the turbines can spin the other way to send electricity out.

FiT Pumped Hydro
Pumped Hydro (c)

Even on the driest inhabited continent, there are enough pumped hydro options to help our grid to 100% renewable energy within two decades. Using wind, solar, and pumped hydro together could be a very feasible answer.

Financing them in the face of fossil-fuelled opposition is the road block. Particularly when our federal government cannot formulate energy policy.

Storing electricity is going to be critical as the grid evolves. The role of a standard FiT for small energy producers is, in my opinion, up for review.

Sonnen Versus Human Nature

German battery company sonnen has entered the Australian market, with their sonnenFlat product. I would have written about it earlier, but I’ve been suffering a fairly serious flu that is hitting Australia late this winter.

On the surface, it looks like a fairly sweet deal. Add a Sonnen battery pack to your existing solar array (or buy that, too), and never pay for electricity consumption again.

In return, sonnen get to use the battery storage as they see fit via the concept of Virtual Power Plant (VPP).

There are a few conditions of course, as this article from Solar Choice’s James Martin II points out. I’d also urge you to also read the comments section as Solar Choice provides further information via responses.

My first impression on seeing the details: this is a mobile phone plan, but for electricity. You pay your $30 a month, use up to the “cap”, and then get charged for excess.

So what are the “gotchas”?

For The Provider

sonnen will make some money on battery retail, first and foremost. The consumer pays for the upfront cost of the battery system, as well as the ongoing payment.

In return, sonnen get a VPP, with which they can play in Australia’s energy market.

Sonnen Eco 8
Sonnen Eco 8 (via Natural Solar)

This may include direct retail of energy, but I don’t see it, despite their promises to “kill” the traditional energy model.

When the sun goes down there is no generation available to them as a standalone provider, and the battery users they are supplying “free” power to will take most available demand from storage.

Most likely, sonnen will seek a partnership with an existing generator and/or retailer. There is already talk of sonnen investigating agreements with companies like AGL, one of Australia’s largest energy providers.

There is a bit of VPP talk going around in Australia at the moment in general. It is one of the ways in which we’re going to address how we manage the grid into the future.

It is acknowledged that demand growth for traditional grid generation has tapered off due to a few factors. This includes better energy efficiency, and uptake of renewables behind the meter. Departure of some industries like car manufacturing also contribute.

However, the need for smarter demand management is growing, particularly where the consumption profile is changing for consumers and industry.

Simply put: we don’t consume energy the way we did in the past. Terms like “baseload” are swiftly becoming meaningless, and I’d urge you to place limited trust in people who say it is a priority!

For The Consumer

The obvious advantage is cost savings. By investing in a sonnen system, you can fix the running cost of your household for years, literally.

Paying $360 per annum for electricity would sound like a fairly sweet deal for most, particularly as some consumers have just seen price hikes of up to 20% in Australia.

There is the up front cost that could make the whole conversation moot. Like the arguments around leaving the grid altogether, capital outlay is going to be a deal breaker for a lot of people.

Caveat EmptoR

In one of the comment replies in the Solar Choice article, they note that the “cap” includes ALL usage in the house i.e. not just imported electricity. This starts at 7500kWh per annum for the $30 plan.

For the consumer who can afford the investment, and just want a set-and-forget system, that makes a lot of sense. The consumer doesn’t have to micro-manage the system, and maybe has the option of getting a little bit smarter about their usage to try and fit under a lower cap.

One real risk is for those users who sign up thinking its all about “free electricity”. If they don’t look after their consumption, it will start to hit the hip pocket, and quickly lead to consumer regret.

And what if your household doesn’t consume 7500kWh per year? As unlikely as that sounds with 20.5kWh to play with. What sort of plan do you go on?

It is critical to understand your consumption across the year, before deciding which system or plan to sign up to.


Does It Fall (sonnen) Flat?

I’m a consumer who bought a battery without a plan like sonnenFlat behind it. I took some actions to maximise that investment, particularly trying to ensure the house runs lean.

The statistics I’ve compiled bear this out. My consumption figure of ~16kWh / day via the system APIs is lower than the ~21kWh / day I took from my billing data.

The less I consume, the more I can export, which produces direct financial benefit for me. I’d also like to think it lowers my carbon footprint a bit.

This is a secondary problem I see with sonnenFlat: you don’t get any benefit from being smarter or better about your energy consumption. Where is the incentive to use less?

To me its a similar argument to those people who are on-grid, but try to consume 100% of their solar generation. Sure, that’s great if you’ve got a smaller PV system and need to be really smart about your use.

I just don’t see the point in running a device you don’t need to for the sake of using up your solar power. Particularly when you can export it for the benefit of others (and yourself!)

The Good News

I think the concept of sonnenFlat is moving in the right direction in several key areas.

The surety for consumer electricity bills, while not demanding too much of their capacity to understand the system, is great.

The addition of more battery capacity in a VPP adds important ancillary services to the grid. This helps the grid evolve and integrate to these new, smarter services.


It also shifts the discussion about batteries further into the spotlight for the “Mum n Dad” consumer. While the Tesla Powerwall created a spark, it was priced only for early adopters. Powerwall 2 suddenly put the financials into reach.

This type of offering – promoting batteries as a service, not just a device – is an important step for consumer markets. One day, batteries and solar will not be a case of “are you getting one?” but more “which one are you getting?”.

The entire retail model is evolving, to the point where you’ll buy your battery and have a plug-n-play installation. Installing solar is slightly more difficult for the average home owner, of course, but it can happen.

IKEA are already offering shopfront retail in the UK, and it will only spread as retailers see profit in the full suite of service provision.

In the absence of anything resembling progressive Federal government policy, all these elements assist our systems to evolve.

More importantly, they help inform our consumers, who are also our electorate.

Will the Grid go into a Death Spiral?

You’ve probably heard the term “Death Spiral” applied to many things. Insurance. Economics. Obamacare. TV (or Presidential) Ratings. Whatever.

Recently there was an article quoted by the smartest Wind Turbine in Australia, as seen on Twitter:

I replied, somewhat off-the-cuff, that the “death spiral” was a bit of a furphy, and was subsequently challenged to a blog post about it.

I’ll give it my best shot – but strictly in layman’s terms, and mainly with a view of the Australian market. Apply the lessons where you will.

WestERN Australia Grid Primer

Western Australia, in terms of land area, is big. I’m talking Texas-plus-Alaska big, for those of you playing in the US of A.

While it has a lot of land, it has less than 3 million people. That means a relatively small market for energy provision. They have a local grid (SWIS*) in the heavily populated south west around Perth (pop 1.95M), one of the most isolated cities on Earth.

* South West Interconnected System

The SWIS covers the SW corner of the state, and is serviced by Synergy. That’s right – there is only one electricity company, and its government owned. But you get your choice of two gas companies!

Death Spiral
The gas is also cursed…

Outside of the SWIS, everything else is the responsibility of Horizon Power. That is a big area to manage, and big means expensive.

Large towns (by Australian standards) can be hundreds of kilometres apart, mostly on the isolated coastline facing the Indian Ocean. Inland towns might only exist for mine operations, or reside on historical roads that still provide services for farming or Aboriginal communities.

One bushfire out there, or a car accident into the wrong pole, can cut what constitutes a grid connection in an instant.

A lot of the electricity outside the SWIS is also heavily subsidised. Some communities get diesel shipped in for generators to run in parallel with renewables. Cost price to do so is 60c/kWh once logistics is factored in, and would be unfair to ask consumers to stump up for all of it.

But governments are only able to bear these costs for so long.

WA Government Budget Repair

As another article says,  the WA Government is increasing power prices in order to undertake budget repair. This includes an electricity price increase for consumption per kWh, as well as fixed charges.

The daily charge residents must pay to be connected to the grid will almost double, resulting in a 10.9 per cent rise on the cost from last year.

Of course, being politicians, they’ve blamed the previous government (now the opposition) for “the mess” inherited. Proving the age-old idiom: Politicians can be raving douchecopters.

Prices are also going up in WA on things like public transport, water, sewerage, and other things like port fees.

Consumers never like increases. Particularly in their electricity bill, and especially in the fixed charges.

You can try to make your household import less energy, but its not going to help a set daily fee get any lower. In fact the data shows that energy usage has stopped increasing in recent years in the NEM on the Eastern seaboard.

In some parts of WA, outside the SWIS, they have a cap on solar installations, to prevent network fluctuations. Seems weird that, in one of the sunniest places on earth, they’d stop installing solar panels, right?

Energy stability is key, particularly in a far-flung network like WA. Its interesting to note that Horizon are undertaking trials to regulate solar power flow in the Gascoyne region shortly (there’s that windmill again).

WA is a state with a lot of sun, potential for a lot of wind, but has challenges bringing it to bear in a safe and reliable manner.

The cap on solar installs is something I’m going to address from a market standpoint, in an upcoming post about my time at Renewable Cities Forum in June.

Putting The Article Into Context

The original article quotes Dr Jemma Green of Power Ledger, a company involved in blockchain retail of renewable energy.

“The perverse outcome of increasing the fixed supply charge is that in the short-run you might get more money, but in the longer run you’re going to push people off the network and look for more cheaper alternatives,” she said.

This is a stark warning to electricity generators and retailers. Particularly in the Australian market where prices have risen more than 60% on average in the last decade.

And while Dr Green believes it is a fair way to help the economic state of WA – as a short-term solution – solar households (25% of the state) in particular would feel somewhat resentful.

The point about being a short term fix is important. Governments simply can’t keep forcing consumers to pay more, particularly while solar and storage systems get cheaper.

Would this move by the Government of WA motivate people to leave? Dr Green says:

“… taken to the extreme means the network is no longer getting the revenue needed to support itself and it creates a death spiral.”

A government, or market operator, would be supremely ignorant (or greedy) to miss the warning signs of such a crisis. She has said “extreme” after all.

That is Reason #1 a death spiral is unlikely: despite what we think, the top end of town are not so stupid (or greedy) as to eat their own tail.

Anatomy Of A Death Spiral

To make something spiral (up or down), you’ve got to have some fairly consistent motivating factors. These factors may be constant, or under acceleration.

We certainly have consistent price rises, here in Australia. New South Wales customers are looking at price rises of up to 16% as of this month, as one example.

The quoted figure over the last decade is a jump of prices in the order of 60-100%, partly due to increased network connection costs.

At the same time, we’ve got larger energy providers like Energy Australia posting profits in the tens of millions. So there is a bit of fat to be trimmed there, if needs be.

But will it force customers to leave the grid?

That is probably the wrong question. A more pointed one is: can customers afford to leave the grid?

Certainly not for today’s prices on storage. If you went out and bought a Powerwall 2, and a solar PV system on the larger side (6kW+), you’re looking at about $16K. The number of households who can afford that is in the minority.

Even then, with only 13kWh of storage, the average household won’t make it through a 48 hour period without sunlight. WA gets clouds, too.

Most off-grid types recommend a minimum of 4 days’ storage, plus a generator for emergencies. Now you’re talking about upwards of $30k, because most people don’t fancy sitting in the dark.

Reason #2 the grid won’t death spiral: in the near future, consumers can’t afford to leave en masse. Therefore the network charges, and consumption fees, are still going to keep the grid afloat.

Pardon My French

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

 – Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

Don’t worry, that will make sense in a minute.

As the landscape changes in our energy network, newer technologies are emerging, and disrupting, the status quo.


Reposit Power are one of the companies at the forefront of changing this landscape. The concept of Virtual Power Plants is the here and now, and Reposit, along with other companies, want to make it available to everyone.

At Energy Networks Australia last year, and again at Renewable Cities this year, you could see the shift in thinking.

The analysts are vocal because they’re trying to get people to listen. The see a bright future and a market of endless technological possibilities.

The salesman are animated, because they’re trying to set up a market. They see great opportunities to put their products into action, and get that market share.

The industry, both generating and retailing, are a equal parts bemused, scared, and curious.

As we see battery uptake increase across Australia, a lot of these technologies are going to change the market place. Horizon Power are trialing control of domestic solar PV output.

How much easier would that be with a grid scale battery in front? Networks could start doing their own frequency regulation and dispatch, with strategically-placed storage (battery, pumped hydro, train full of rocks, whatever).

They could limit long-term infrastructure spend by tapping user storage in times of need, and at a lower price than it costs to run traditional or renewable generation. And you don’t have to transmit it over kilometres; its right there in the neighbourhood!

If you’re a consumer in 2020, how mad would you be to disconnect from the grid, when you can contribute, and profit, from it?

As old mate Jean-Baptiste said above: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Staying connected to the grid will be as normal tomorrow, as it was yesterday.

Reason #3 the death spiral won’t happen: consumers will eventually become participants.

Rumours Of My Death Spiral Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Prices go up. That’s capitalism.

Anyone reading this article who isn’t on board with the solar + storage thing is going to accuse me of being a rich man. Of leaving the poor people behind, and forcing those left on the grid full-time to pick up the tab.

And that is certainly a risk that the WA Council of Social Services highlighted when the government announced these price rises. Those who are already struggling to pay the bills are going to be hit hardest.

Of course, it would be nice if prices didn’t go up quite so much as 10-16% in one year. But you can’t blame renewables for that – or you can, but you’ll look like an idiot.

If you want to blame someone, point your finger at the Federal Government’s appalling lack of energy policy.

Death Spiral
Not pictured: coherent, forward-looking energy policy (c)

Look at the State Governments and their mates in the energy industries, lobbying for bigger, gold-plated networks we don’t need.

Now think about the private players who are entering the market. They’re seeking profits, sure, but they’re bringing technology and ideas designed to minimise spending, while maximising value. They’re not interested in a death spiral.

Renewable energy without subsidies is now beating fossil fuels. Distributed microgrids are cheaper (and quicker) to build, and easier to maintain than massive, centralised networks. Even companies like Horizon Power know that, and are putting it into practice.

I don’t think we’re going to see the grid die. I think we’re going to see it grow into something more secure, resilient, and flexible. And the longer term costs of running it will decrease per capita.

The grid will still be there for us, and we’ll be there for the grid. It might get a bit bumpy, so keep your limbs inside the ride at all times.

The Finkel Report

The Finkel Report* was released this week. Those watching the energy market in Australia were keen to see how it framed the future energy discussion.

* aka Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market

Alan Finkel
Hail to the Chief (Scientist)

Alan Finkel is Australia’s Chief Scientist, having taken up that post in January 2016. He’s a pretty smart cookie, too, as both a qualified electrical engineer and neuroscientist.

You can see some more information about the report itself on the Department of the Environment and Energy website. The report runs to 212 pages, but there is an Executive Summary available.

Following hot on the heels of its release, the Chief Scientist appeared on ABC TV’s Q&A program. Along with some politicians and consumer advocates, the opportunity to discuss some details about the report and the energy market generally.

Key Themes

Look, I don’t generally watch Q&A; what started out as a great premise – get politicians in front of the public to make them answer questions on live, national TV – soon turned into this:

The best episodes were those featuring scientists with no politicians. No surprises there. Any episode involving politicians soon turned into a battle of wits between unarmed opponents.

While there were politicians on last night’s showing (one from each major party), the key inclusions were from the consumer advocacy sector.

Voice Of The Consumer


(c) Climate Council
Amanda McKenzie

Amanda McKenzie is CEO of the Climate Council. Formed via crowd funding, after the Climate Commission was abolished by the current government.


Along with other advocates from Public Health through to Biology and Business, the role of the Climate Council is to provide independent, authoritative climate change information to the Australian public.

(c) ECA
Rosemary Sinclar

Rosemary Sinclair is the CEO of Energy Consumers Australia. ECA aims to provide a voice for residential and small business consumers of energy. Of particular concern to their mission is fair pricing, and reliability.

Of particular interest to ECA is ongoing survey of Energy Consumer Sentiment. This is key to understanding the market as it affects users.

While the two politicians sought to score points, both the CEOs on the panel stayed above the petty bickering. The refreshingly factual dialogue on what consumers want should serve as a reminder to our politicians that their role is to represent us.

The discussion moved to CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage), which seems like a good idea until you look at the economics. Like a lot of fossil-fuel related initiatives, it seems great until apples are compared to apples, as McKenzie said: new renewables beat new fossil fuels.

The Finkel Report, and the man himself, argue that any approach should be tech-agnostic. Therefore we must assume any initiatives that come out of this are economically sound. Coal – in any guise – simply isn’t, even before the healthy impacts are measured.

The most important part of the night were Rosemary Sinclair’s closing remarks. It really sums up our frustration, both at a consumer level for certainty on pricing, and for industry in terms of investment.

We will see where this goes. Hopefully governments at State and Federal level, in light of the Finkel Report, drop the partisanship and legislate for the network we deserve.

Renewable Cities

As I mentioned on twitter, I’ll be attending Renewable Cities in Sydney this week.

With the release of the Finkel Report so close, I predict there will be a lot of interesting discussion. The goal of the forum is to merge minds on the way forward for our ever-expanding cities and towns.

There are workshops on EVs, a few people like Reposit Power will be there, and I’m looking forward to having a chat to people as I seek out the next stage in my career.

I’ll also bang out a few Twitter Live experiences so make sure you’re following @AuPowerwall!


SolarEdge Updates

I’ve been a bit busy to monitor my usage regularly, of late. Feeling out of touch, I made a point of checking my solar generation after recent rainy weeks.

It seemed a little low. Usually I hit 5kW around the middle of the day, but was peaking out at 4.6kW. I was contacted by someone who lives nearby with a corresponding fall in numbers.

The only theory we have to go off is lower angle of the sun. Additionally, because there were two weeks of Autumn where we almost never saw direct sunlight, we didn’t see the slow decline over time.

Its like seeing someone’s kids only occasionally – can’t believe how much they’ve grown! Their parents see it every day.

SolarEdge Updates

Having not checked anything for a while, I headed over to the SolarEdge Monitoring Portal to compare their results to Reposit. Having a second source for comparison is very helpful to sort out any discrepancies.

Well, there certainly have been some changes! And all of them look like winners.

The first noticeable change was the new Monthly profile for Power and Energy.

SolarEdge Updates
April 2017 to date

There was a period where the “self-consumption” figure wasn’t being reported through some conflict with the Reposit interface. That’s back, which is great.

Added to this is the “From Battery” stat which is quite cool. It features both in the Consumption summary figure, and the bar graph. This is only recent, so I look forward to that percentage figure “from batteries” smoothing out with a larger data sample.

If you mouse-over any of those bar graphs it gives you the details, in kWh, for the days that have been completed. Again – very vool.

I also hadn’t given much thought to the year-on-year comparison before I had enough data. Now its very handy to answer questions I and my near-neighbour have about long-term performance.

SolarEdge Updates 2

For reference, the figures are in the table below for the three months with suitable data.

Month MWh 2016 MWh 2017
February 0.728 0.780
March 0.695 0.617
April 0.523 0.588*

* As of April 24.

What I find really interesting is the March figure; despite having an extra 1.5kW of panels this March compared to 2016, the weather meant I didn’t generate quite as much.

Moving forward, I’m sure subsequent years and months will prove to be most interesting. I love me some data!

Live Baby Live!

They’ve also updated the Overview panel to have near-real-time feeds of consumption. I did a quick screen cap of this and stuck it on my YouTube Channel. I like.

All in all, a great round of SolarEdge Updates as we move toward the cooler months.


A List Of Stuff

Realised it has been over a month since my last update. I’ve been kind of busy doing stuff with work, family events, and also putting a Rugby Club through its pre-season setup.

Finding time to sit and think has been a bit hard. At the same time, there is so much happening here in Australia with regards to renewable energy, its difficult to keep up!

Hydro stuff
Thanks to wikipedia

So here’s a scatter gun approach to energy blogging:

Scamwatch Stuff

Part 1 of this is a scam warning. A group listed “50% OFF!” specials for LG panels and LGChem batteries here recently. One example:

LGscam stuff

Now, nobody in their right mind should be writing 7.2kw’s as that’s just bad grammar.

Second issue is they’re using a lower case “w” to represent “Watt” for both panels and battery, which is wrong in every scientific manner.

Third issue is the battery is listed as “kw” instead of “kWh” – always remember that batteries are energy storage. This means they should always be listed with their kWh (kilowatt hour) figure to understand.

Beyond all that, the pricing is just cray-cray, and so is the manner of billing. A friend of mine contacted them and they sent him an invoice for the full $12,990. This is weird as most equipment sales would take a deposit (maybe as little as $1000), instead of the full amount to get started.

As it is, he cold-called LG Australia directly, who were aware of it, but couldn’t say much for legal reasons. He also dug a little deeper on the website with the original promotion to see what he could turn up.

Both leads turned him onto the fact that this wasn’t all that it seemed, so he backed right off. Good move.


As reported both here in Australia and overseas, some interesting tweet action went down between Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and Tesla chief Elon Musk.


I don’t need to bore you with the details of the tweets themselves; if you’re here reading my blog, you probably saw it go down.


However, if you’re reading this from overseas, what you need to understand is that the talk about batteries is going ballistic here.

MCB and Musk really kicked things off for South Australia’s call for grid-scale battery proposals. But the process was also well underway in the state of Victoria, seeking to go large on storage as well.

Several people I’ve talked to in Canberra (our nation’s capital) are saying the phone is off the hook from government offices.

Suddenly people are realising that a smart, integrated grid is a thing we need. The people in power are starting to come around to the fact that coal is going to collapse, and that idiot behaviour about it needs to stop.

Coal stuff
Pictured: idiot behaviour (c)

That is the Australian Federal Treasurer, waving a lump of coal around in our House of Representatives.

Of course, politicians are populists by nature these days, so it remains to be seen whether talk of batteries survives the Next Big Issue they invent.

New Hydro Stuff

And from the book of “Hey! I’m a Populist, too!” comes our own Prime Minister. He’s decided that expanding our big hydro power scheme in The Snowy Mountains* is an awesome idea, and is framing it as “nation-building”

* some of the place naming in Australia is not wildly original…

Lenore Taylor provides a great breakdown in The Guardian on why this is important, in terms of how a leader, thought of as progressive, is still held back by the dinosaurs in his own party. You should read that article. Go ahead – I’ll wait here.

My issue with it is in the execution.

Expanding the Snowy Mountains Scheme in this way is an increase of 2000MW (2GW), which is not insignificant. It’ll cost AUD$2B which is also a pretty fair price.

BUT it will take somewhere between 4-7 years by all estimates. That means it isn’t really going do much more than keep up with demand, if at all.

There is also the danger that the goal posts will have moved entirely during that time. As I posited last year in Agile Energy Projects In The Marketplace: big projects can quickly become unwieldy.

Projects designed for even 30-year life cycles will find themselves at risk of rejection. It will be simply uneconomical to support such inflexible systems.

This is true in a market where things are changing rapidly, and particularly true in Australia, where we are shutting down old infrastructure.

The removal of the “baseload” paradigm is going to become more common, and require a smarter, more responsive network to cater for integration of many new technologies.

Hydro Power is as subject to this brave new world as much as wind, solar, or other sources.

I think we’d be better off kickstarting a solar thermal industry.

Solar stuff
Tower of Power. Wikipedia

Powerwall Stuff

This month sees the Powerwall v2 landing on our shores. It promises to be interesting times as we move from the early-adopter stage into mum-n-dad market.

The housing market is already seeing the potential, with Metricon offering Solar + Storage in home builds in the state of Queensland.

Powerwall v2 promises to really shift the landscape, offering twice the capacity of my unit, for roughly the same price. Other manufacturers are going to need to start offering more capacity or other desirable features to keep up.

Along with the big battery moves, 2017 looks like its going to be a very interesting year. Most predicted we wouldn’t hit this stage until 2020, but here we are!

Many jobs, with new types of infrastructure projects, will be required to make this happen. That means opportunities for people to jump on the train as its leaving the station.

Note: I’m always open to proposals in this regard.

Statistics Stuff

Here in Sydney it has been rather damp the last month or so. Tropical cyclones off the northeast coast of Australia have caused a lot of damage there. The storm train they pushed south has kept the cloud in play for many days.

Looking at my statistics, the last 28 days have seen generation below 21kWh / day, compared to a lifetime average of a little over 23kWh / day.

Consumption is also down, which is in part due to tapering off the pool pump now we’re in the cooler months.

Import is sitting around the average, though I haven’t needed the grid too much. The occasional Reposit Power off-peak import has bumped this number up a little, but I’m thankful for saving a few dollars.

Now that its been a year, with statistics, I’m satisfied that things will just tick along without my intervention. I don’t really have time to watch it 24/7 anyway!

I’ve started overriding my obsession with checking the system every 10 minutes.

Its more like hourly, now 😉


Year Of The Powerwall

Let’s get straight to it: 50 cents per day.

That is what I paid for electricity over the 350 days of billing I have since the Powerwall was installed, and my electricity provider changed over.

This is important to note, as the two weeks up to change of provider meant I wasn’t getting any export benefits from my solar panels. Mugged!

The saving is over the $2000 mark, but for the sake of round numbers, let’s call it $2000.

OK, so not exactly this good, but pretty good…

To put in perspective what money means to my family: our recent road trip, to central and southern NSW, cost almost exactly that. Essentially, I got my little summer break for free.

Facts And Figures

According to the billing received by Diamond Energy over the 350 day period:

  • Import total was 1349.830kWh (or 3.857kWh / day)
  • Export total was 3807.403kWh (or 10.878kWh / day)

Not quite the 1:3 ratio I was looking for, but that figure is probably no longer simple to calculate, which I’ll explain below.

From the SolarEdge web portal, I have the following factoids:

  • Lifetime energy: 9.1MWh
  • CO2 emissions saved: ~3400kg
  • Equivalent trees planted: 11
  • Light bulbs powered for a day: ~26,200

That is kind of the feelgood stuff, despite the Powerwall not necessarily being “green” as people might imagine.

As with anything, there is a carbon cost associated with production. The early iterations of any battery product are going to be a little bit on the dirty side.

As one example: Lithium ore needs to be shipped from the mine to the refining facility. The refined lithium is then shipped to the cell production facility, which may or may not need shipping to the final place the Powerwall was built.

Tesla are addressing this with “vertical integration” of production, particularly for their cars, but also batteries in general. This means more processes can be done at one site, reducing shipping costs (and therefore carbon c0st) of transporting components.

Other Factors Considered

Keen observers will remember that in October I got more solar panels. That took my total system size to 6.5kW of panels. I just heard a bunch of critics trumpet “AHA!” but keep in mind, I still only have a 5kW inverter.

Therefore the maximum power I can generate is limited to 5kW, though the peak time lasts a bit longer on a sunny day.

It is hard to quantify what effect this has on the system, beyond saying “there is more solar capacity”. As the new panels are oriented WSW they’re not always going to be ruling the roost in terms of efficiency.

Its also a smaller factor than it otherwise would be, having been installed four months out of the year. Granted, they were the sunnier months.

Another consideration is my move to Time Of Use tariffs in the first week of August. This has an effect on two areas of my billing.

If I’m smart enough to “game” the tariffs, and avoid doing anything during peak time, I can save a lot. Unfortunately peak time coincides with oven and air conditioner use, so that’s not always possible.

The billing and the import numbers above will be affected by Reposit Power managing tariff arbitrage. When I import power now, it might be a result of my needs being bigger than the system output, the battery being empty, or because Reposit sees a cloudy day and wants to import some at a cheaper rate.

Putting together the new panels and move to TOU, a better time to revisit this might be October this year. That way, I’d have a true idea of what I can really save with all components working together.

The Vagaries Of Billing

Those out for a bargain will know to shop around with their electricity companies, and see how best to maximise their savings.

Whether that is through generous sign-up rebates, or big discounts for paying on time or via direct debit. It all adds up, and people without solar or batteries can benefit if they do their research.

As I pay such low amounts anyway, discounts don’t add up to much. Pay-on-time discount across the year was $20, and paying by Direct Debit discount was $17.62.

The bigger benefit was referring people on to Diamond Energy, which netted me $105 across the year. Against that, I paid $22 (inc GST) application fee with Diamond, so the benefit was more like $83.

If we add that $83 back onto the billing, it goes from 50 cents per day to 75 cents per day.

I pay about $1 a day to connect to the electricity network, so its still good. There are even a few dollars in GridCredits unaccounted for at this point.

Year Of The Powerwall

When I say “Year Of The Powerwall” I’m not speaking only to the year I’ve had. This year, 2017, marks the landing of Powerwall version 2 in Australia, and overseas.

I’ll level with you: I haven’t really spoken much about PW2 since the launch, because I’m still experiencing some angst.

Year Of The Powerwall
So hot right now…

I thought I’d done OK with my battery, then in the same year, Tesla brings out one TWICE as good.

C’mon Elon… I thought we were mates!

Overall though, this is a good thing. I think we’re about to see the domestic battery market kick off in 2017, with Tesla in front. That is quite amazing, given the prediction was market maturation in 2020. We’re three years ahead!

Talking to a few people getting quotes and installing them, right now there are very few people price-competitive per kWh.

As the manufacturers in Korea and China start their own uplift via vertical integration, prices are going to keep sliding, and competition increase.

This can only be a good thing for the consumer, for the grid, and for energy security and stability moving forward.

And any consumer who is getting a Powerwall 2: I think a zero electricity bill is well within reach.

If you factored in selling power back to the Grid out of the battery, which I think will replace solar feed-in tariffs eventually, you could even turn a small profit.

As always, user experience may vary. Its up to you to make the most out of your investment.

An Addendum

As I wrote earlier in the month, we have had some heat wave conditions here in Sydney, with outside temperatures getting into the high 40s (120oF). That was kind of insane, but it kicked off some GridCredits for me, which is also a good thing.

As we’re moving toward more extreme weather events, having a flexible and robust grid, with user storage available for emergencies, will be important.

Heatwave Conditions Do Not Compute

As we sit here in a rare Sydney heatwave, I decided to blog. Its all I have the energy for.

Temperatures today are predicted to reach 46oC today. That is 115oF for those of you with funny thermometers. Sydney is supposed to hit a record February day, in fact.

As the temperatures rise, the standard position for most people is to turn on their air conditioner and shut all the windows. And that is great; electricity can often be the most efficient way to cool space.

The problem is the load it puts on the grid, and the possibility of blackouts in many areas, as people ramp up power usage in heatwave conditions.

The kicker: Australia has more than enough generation capacity to cover its needs. This overcapacity is only useful when the market operates correctly though, as this video shows.

In a week where the Federal Government decided to use coal as a political football*, particularly on their support of coal over newer technologies, videos like this show how broken the system is.

* That is a really good article by Lenore Taylor above. Stop and read it. Give her a follow.

The good news is: consumers can help save it.

Combating the Heatwave

Normally you’d expect me to go on a rant here about Reposit Power and how microgrids are going to save the world.

The problem is that we’re continuing to consume high amounts of electricity to keep comfortable. If the heatwave conditions continue due to climate change, consuming even more won’t help – it will just make us hotter!

We’re stuck with fossil fuels for now, even while renewable technologies like solar, wind, and storage ramp up. In Australia at least, they’re going to be the majority of power sources until at 2025. Maybe longer.

As we’ve seen from The Guardian video above, the market can be “gamed” by generators, to help drive prices up. Even if you got a million Reposit Power boxes controlling 10MWh of storage, you’re not going to redress a balance of GIGA watts.

Part of the solution has to be a way to use less power. Therefore, instead of microgrids saving the world, I’m going to talk about something far simpler. Many countries in the world already practice it, but for many and varied reasons, Australia doesn’t.

Energy Efficiency

Its a topic that is not nearly as sexy as GridCredits, but in Australia, its probably more important than ever. Let’s start with a quick diagram:


While that is a gross simplification, the basic truth is there:

  1. Inefficient houses are built a lot here (and at high density)
  2. They need more power to keep themselves cool or warm
  3. This needs more power from (majority) fossil fuels
  4. That makes more profit for electricity companies*

* It should also be noted that it means more (moar) profits for home builders, because the materials for less-efficient houses are correspondingly cheaper.

Its a vicious cycle, and its particularly ridiculous in places like Sydney where land is expensive to buy but houses are cheap to build. And once they’re built, they grow in value (but not efficiency) almost overnight.

I understand this because I bought a house three years ago and watched it increase in price 25% in that time. And it isn’t any more efficient today than it was the day I got it.

Except the pool pump I replaced, but that is another (angry) story.

Consumers Will Consume

Nobody wants to spend any more money than they have to on building their home. I dig that.

I lived in a house with two reverse-cycle split A/C systems for years, and always wish I had ducted.

When I got my new house, it had ducted. And the electricity bills were much bigger. But I didn’t put all of that down to the A/C – it was part of the issue, sure, but I had a bigger house with a few more TVs. Yeah, that must be it.

Now that I have the data on what it costs to run, I’m appalled, and looking for alternatives.

The first part was solar PV and a battery system. That has helped slice my electricity bill into tiny little pieces (blog coming soon on that).

To take it to the next step, I’m going to look at making my house more efficient. As I wrote back in March 2016, there are weak points in my house that need looking at.

Those windows on the west side of the house are next on the list, and I’m getting quotes for double-glazing and glass film technologies as we speak.

Advice For The Home Builder

If you’re building a home at the moment – or even renovating – I’ve got some advice for you, on how you can help with this heatwave situation. This covers both your personal comfort levels, and your contribution to the environment.

Look into designing your house right. Make sure you’ve got decent eaves. Windows that aren’t monstrously oversized. Understand the quality of the wall and ceiling insulation and MAKE SURE it covers the garage; many builders don’t insulate the garage, so its a massive heat collector, and can radiate through internal walls.

DOUBLE-GLAZING. Adds to the initial cost of construction, but will reduce your energy costs by 25-50% depending on aspect.

Get the Air Conditioner you NEED. Don’t just get the biggest one or look at the cheapest price. With the weather warming in Australia, you need to be sure that your A/C is smart. Make sure it is an inverter, and don’t worry about the slightly higher initial cost. It will pay for itself in efficiency measures, while electricity prices continue to rise.

If you find its not enough, then installing a small split system in a particularly bad area of the house can be done later. If you buy the big unit, you’re stuck with it for good.



Also, don’t be that guy who sets it to 21C appropriate. Your house should never really need to go below about 25C to stay comfortable if the thermostat is set up correctly, in the right location. This will save you thousands in electricity costs over the lifetime of the system.

Use ceiling fans and portable fans tactically, to keep air moving around your house. This is also part of using the 25C rule. If the air is moving, it often feels cooler, and the cost to run one is minimal.

Politically Speaking

The last measure you can do is speak to your local member about raising building efficiency standards in Australia.

I was fortunate enough to hear Dr Brian Motherway talk about efficiency at a conference last year. Efficiency is one of the key targets of the International Energy Agency.

Countries like China are ramping up policy and action in this area, as well as decreasing their reliance on fossil fuels in favour of renewables.

Those nations that don’t look at the entire energy spectrum are going to be left behind. And what is the point of pursuing a green grid if we’re still wasting it?

With that thought foremost in my mind, I’m going to jump in the pool with a beer.