The Off-Grid Revolution That's Taking Over Australia

Could Australia be the first developed country to have half of its residents go off-grid? According to a 2015 Climate Council report, the price of going off-grid is falling rapidly, which could make disconnecting from the grid a financially viable prospect by 2018. This report predicts that as many as 50 percent of households could soon ditch their connection to the national electricity grid in favour of solar panels and batteries, which allow households to generate and store their own electricity.

Lower Battery Prices Persuade People to Try Off-Grid Living

Solar panels generate plenty of electricity during a sunny day, but households living off-grid also need a way of storing energy to use on cloudy days and at night. In the past, high battery prices have made living off-grid an expensive lifestyle choice, but experts predict that costs will fall dramatically by 2018. Largely driven by advances in lithium-ion energy storage technology, lower battery costs could convince many Australian homeowners that generating and storing their own energy is an affordable option.

Higher Electricity Prices Drive People Off-Grid

Electricity prices in Australia are already higher than in many other developed countries, which gives homeowners a strong incentive to generate their own power. With costs expected to rise even further, the Climate Council report predicts that an increasing number of Australians will soon install solar panels and home battery systems to reduce their dependence on grid electricity.

The Benefits of the Off-Grid Revolution

Embracing the off-grid lifestyle could have big benefits for remote communities. Power lines can cause bushfires, which put people's lives, homes and livestock at risk. Rather than relying on power lines to bring in electricity from the main power stations, rural communities could build their own micro-generation plants, which use a mixture of solar and wind power to supply all homes in the local area.

Off-Grid Living: Only For the Wealthy?

Although the costs of batteries and solar panels are falling, setting up a domestic energy generation and storage system still requires an investment that many people cannot afford. Low-income people could be left relying on the grid long after their richer neighbours have disconnected. This could leave them in a very vulnerable position, as electricity companies may need to put up prices to compensate for losing a large number of customers. To avoid being left behind in this way, lower-income people may need to take advantage of industry and government programs that help them meet the cost of installing solar panels.