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AGL offers solar sweetener amid energy price storm

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Energy retailer AGL will offer heavily subsidised solar batteries to 1000 Adelaide homes from today, earning congratulations from Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis less than a month after he urged customers to abandon the company.

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AGL has announced it will offer cheap solar battery systems to households across metropolitan Adelaide – in what is being touted as the largest solar battery project of its kind in the world – on the condition that the company can direct power from the batteries into the grid during times of peak demand.

The first Sunverge 7.7kWh battery systems are to be installed later this year, at a cost to customers of around $3500 each. Solar battery systems normally cost between $9000 and $15,000.

Koutsantonis told InDaily the new household solar battery network would amount to the equivalent of a 5 mega-watt solar plant, and was “the first stage of rolling out solar batteries across South Australia”.

“It’s a good example of the type of behaviour we should see in this economy,” he said.

Last month, Koutsantonis urged AGL’s South Australian customers to “pick up the phone, ring around and change [providers]” after it announced a shock 10 per cent power price hike.

“It’s a kick in the guts, it really is, and it shows how important it is that we start treating electricity the way we treat other commodities,” he said at the time.

After AGL added an extra $228 to its customers’ average yearly power bill, its competitors followed suit, with Origin Energy adding $117 to the average annual bill and Energy Australia hitting consumers with a $261 hike.

But this morning Koutsantonis congratulated AGL on its solar batteries initiative, adding that he was entitled to support a company when it made good decisions and criticise it when it made bad ones.

“My job is to be an honest broker here,” he said.

“Battery storage of renewable energy is an emerging technology that will completely transform the way electricity is generated and distributed in Australia … this technology has the potential to dramatically reduce power costs in South Australia.”

The announcement comes amid fierce debate over the impact of a heavy reliance on renewable energy, such as wind power, on South Australia’s soaring electricity prices.

The State Government wrote to the Essential Services Commissioner last month, asking for an independent assessment of whether the energy retailers’ price hikes were justified.

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