Battery storageProject Consumer Energy Systems Providing Cost-Effective Grid Support
This CONSORT – Social Science Report social research report brings together a wealth of rich new qualitative data on how householders respond to Distributed Energy Resources (DER).
This social research report brings together a wealth of rich new qualitative data on how householders respond to Distributed Energy Resources (DER). Through dedicated ARENA funding for the social research on the CONSORT project over a three year period, we have been able to investigate in depth 34 households who took part in the Battery Trial on Bruny Island, Australia. Our key findings, discussed here, cover the installation of the new technology, householders’ emotional responses to the technology, how household behaviours changed over the course of the trial, and household reactions to new payment systems, tariffs, and rewards.
An overall finding of practical importance to similar trials underway elsewhere is how our social research was able to identify issues with the technology at an early stage because we were in frequent ‘frontline’ contact with the households and thereby communicate to, and work with, the rest of the CONSORT team to resolve issues early on. More fundamentally, it emerged over the course of the Trial that many of the unexpected things the Trial households focused on and raised with us did turn out to be important gaps in the technology or CONSORT team understanding. For instance, several households reported a lack of information at the time of technology installation, and it was found that not all installers were able to pass on information about the new technology. The role of installers was later agreed by the CONSORT team to be vital. As another example, a number of households were unsure about which tariff they were on, and it did later emerge that the process for switching tariffs and checking the tariff was convoluted.
We identified in our original project proposal to ARENA (October 2015) the way in which Bruny Island would operate as ‘a rigorous…[and] extreme test case’ (p.22) for new DER interventions, because of its rural location, high proportion of holiday house (shack) owners and non average demographics (a high proportion of retirees). This turned out to be the case.
A common assumption amongst industry and government reports on DER is that householders are likely to be willing and unproblematic participants in DER sharing with networks. Our CONSORT social research challenges this assumption: households are diverse, and greater awareness and appreciation of the context in which households make decisions about their energy is crucial to understanding their receptiveness to DER, and their DER preferences.