By Terri Butler MP

20 January 2022

SUBJECT: Labor's Community Battery Plan to cut emissions and power bills in Coorparoo.

STEVE AUSTIN, HOST: Well, if you live in the suburb of Coorparoo, and use or want to use stored solar energy, you've been offered a bit of an election sweetener from Labor today, because Labor has announced a community storage battery for the suburb if they win office. It's part of the wider ALP energy plan to install 400 of them around Australia if they win the federal election.
Terri Butler is the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water, and she's the federal member for Griffith, the electorate based here in Brisbane. I spoke to Terri earlier on today.
TERRI BUTLER, SHADOW MINSITER FOR ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: You know how people have household batteries? Well, this is one that the whole community can use. And so, if you've got solar panels on your roof, you can feed into the battery, and if you don't have solar panels because you're a renter or you live in an apartment or for whatever reason, you can actually get power out of the battery at a lower price. So it's a win win. It promotes more renewable take up, and it helps to build storage capacity in the community on the existing grid so that it's about making sure that the grid allows for better take up of renewables and also pushes down power prices.
AUSTIN: But, only for the people of Coorparoo. Am I - am I misunderstanding things?
BUTLER: So we've announced in our Power to the People Community Battery Plan that we're going to invest $200 million to install 400 community batteries across the country. And I've pitched for Coorparoo because the substations there, the Energex substation is actually on Cavendish Road. So about a gazillion cars go past that every day and in my mind, we can have a big sign up talking about the benefits of community batteries, the benefits of storage and the benefits of renewables. So, it will have a demonstration effect, that a lot of people will see, because this is actually important for making sure that we build a lot of enthusiasm in the public mind for getting more renewables into the grid. And that's why, that's one of the reasons why this program is important. So yes, it's 400 across the country. Yes, it's not every suburb getting one, but it's a great way to spark the conversation and more importantly, the enthusiasm for policies, public policy, that supports renewables into the grid, because that will mean cheaper power prices, and it will also mean lower emissions.
AUSTIN: Are you able to give me a comparison? The only battery I’ve sort of got any sort of understanding of is that as the famous Tesla battery in South Australia, the really big one. How big. I'm trying to get a sort of a visual picture in my imagination as to how big this would be, so it will be on the hill at Cavendish Road at Coorparoo if you get elected, how big and how would it look?
BUTLER: Well, have you got one of those corrugated iron looking backyard sheds Steve?
AUSTIN: I don't, but I know what you're talking about. I don't.
BUTLER: Yeah, so people could visualise that, it’s around that sort of size, but it can pack a real punch. It can store for a lot of different households in the community. And the great thing about it, as I said, it is it actually increases the capacity of the grid to take it, to take power from renewables. And that's what we want. We want to see people who are on the grid getting the benefit of renewable energy, and we want to see power prices being pushed down. And that's not a particularly big kind of item in terms of the amount of space it takes up. But if we can get a lot of enthusiasm for this, then that's going to be terrific.
AUSTIN: This will be stored energy that could be used at any time, but particularly, I guess, it comes into its own at night. So what it builds grid resilience in a city?
BUTLER: That's right. So if you've got solar on your - so another reason that we thought that Coorparoo would be a really good location for this is because there's a lot of households with solar on their roof, but only about 25 batteries installed in these households, right? So you've got a lot of people who aren't really getting the maximum benefit out of solar, whereas if there's a community battery, they'll be able to store the solar that they get during the day and then take it back out at night. It's really terrific.
AUSTIN: Now I assume this would normally be done by the state government. The state governments are responsible in Queensland here for power generation and delivery through their various utilities has the state, have you had any sort of a confirmation or agreement with the state to do this if elected?
BUTLER: So with the policy, the national policy was announced some time ago, and we've obviously been talking to state counterparts about making sure that we can roll this out and look, the Queensland government, they're terrific. They've been working so hard to increase the renewable energy in this state. They've really been doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the feds. The feds actually are responsible for making sure that we've got a really well operating renewable energy target at a national level, but they've been pretty hopeless, frankly, Steve, at doing that in their eight years in government. We actually want to see a federal Labor government that will support renewable energy that will make sure that that puts downward pressure on power prices and for that matter, creates jobs. Because when you can increase the capacity of the network to store renewables, then obviously that has a flow on effect as well, and it'll also benefit the planet by reducing emissions. So it's a win win win. And if we can get some enthusiasm out there for these sort of really practical, hyperlocal measures, that create renewable energy storage that support people who have already got solar, encourage more people to think about solar and, help those people who can't get solar because, as I say, they're renting, or they're in an apartment, or whatever the case might be. As I said, I think it's really something that we should all be enthusiastic about.
AUSTIN: Here in Queensland, people are already thinking about solar because we're the place that has most solar panels on average than anywhere else in Australia. But my question was the state government. I mean, it's their utilities that generate power in Queensland and run the grid. Why aren't they doing this or is there some sort of funding agreement if federal Labor gets in with the states to do this?
BUTLER: Well, we've got a big funding commitment towards it $200 million - so that $200 million is to fund the installation of these community batteries. That's the purpose of this. So that's how it'll actually be funded and we'll work with them. Of course, we'll work with them to make sure that we're collaborating with them in relation to the networks, making sure that people are getting the best opportunity to access these. As I said, I think it's actually going to be really terrific thing for people to drive past and see apart from anything else.
AUSTIN: And for those people that have solar on their roofs and have a have a Powerwall like a Tesla, Powerwall or something, what happens to them? They've invested what, between $7000 to $11,000 for their own battery in their house? What happens to them?
BUTLER: Yep. So there's only 25 of them in Coorparoo, and I suspect that people who've got their own battery will prefer to use their own battery. But this is something for people who've got the solar but don't have the battery or for people who would like to have the solar but can't get it.
AUSTIN: Terri Butler, Shadow Minister for the Environment, Water and federal Member for Griffith, thanks for your time.
BUTLER: Thanks so much, Steve.