Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists

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Why Battery Technology will force Power Companies to embrace domestic supply

Thursday 12 March 2015

Around Australia and parts of the world like the USA, some governments and especially many large scale power utilities, are pursuing a campaign to prevent domestic solar from being fed back into (sold to) the grid. I'm assuming that the (fundamentally flawed) thinking is that by denying additional energy production points, they'll prop up or sustain their own margins and profits. Which was probably accurate until the 2015 International Year of Battery Technology got into its groove

The one core challenge with renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and tidal energy is that it is a use it or lose it kind of generation. Unlike gas or coal or oil, wherein the energy source is stored as a fuel that is then burnt in an engine of sorts to produce electricity when needed, renewable production is typically required to be utilised pretty well straight away or it vanishes into the ether.

In that light, power utility companies know that if they can prevent renewables being connected to the grid, excess production of renewable energy (unneeded by the provider) will therefore go to waste, and help prop up prices for low demand periods.  In high demand times such as when it is particularly hot, customers will be forced to pay significantly more for their energy because excess domestic supply in the form of roof mounted solar panels, will not be available to 'flatten out' the demand spike. In South Australia, the abundance of roof top solar has proven to flatten the demand on the overall grid, adding to stability whilst lowering costs of supply to everyone as this article shows

So in that light it would make sense for energy utilities to do whatever they can to stop additional renewable capacity being added to the grid. In Queensland and across the US the practise seems almost a fait accompli for any energy utility using last century's technology like coal. Things seem no less bitter and short-sighted in the US and I say short-sighted because unfortunately the 'deny access to the grid' approach is now flawed, with the rise of Battery Technology for storage upon us.

Rather than try and prevent access of renewable energy producers selling into the grid, power companies ought to be encouraging the method under managed guidelines. Because here's the main problem - the available large scale storage battery technology is getting some serious development as this story shows and this means one thing for the future of utilities: if you deny domestic supply points a chance to access the grid and sell excess, they'll by-pass the grid completely and store their energy which they'll then make available for free. In other words, denying the domestic supply model will push the domestic supply to become a viable alternative and accelerate the existing utility businss model to a fast demise.

The International Year of Battery Technology has just kicked off. Like the cost of solar cells and data storage, the acceleration will see smaller units at ever cheaper cost expand from small sites at commercial buildings, to residential housing estates and then into individual domestic supply options - a model that remote homes have proven successful for almost four decades. At the point at which scale and cost becomes available to urban domestic sites, energy utilities can kiss their business goodbye

 

Need a high quality speaker to wow your audience, jolt your  Board or provoke the thinking of your senior management team? Contact Marcus Barber today 


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