US newspaper The Wall Street Journal has given energy-conscious consumers – and the battery industry – a reality check.
A report by Robin Sidel says “home batteries aren’t economical – yet” and “the benefits are minimal in most areas”.
Home batteries have been given a big push in the US recently as solar power becomes more affordable and common. More than one million US homes now have solar power systems and, last year alone, US homeowners installed 2,583MW of solar power, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. IHS Markit expects demand from homeowners for battery storage capacity to rise from 30MW in 2016 to 78MW by 2020.
But, the newspaper points out, “the financial benefits for most Americans are still as meagre as the interest generated on that savings account”.
The report goes on to say that “household generators are typically cheaper than their battery counterparts” and “a generator theoretically can run indefinitely as long as it is supplied with fuel”.
The report admits that it might make more sense in states like Hawaii where electricity is expensive and local regulators have set restrictions on the sale of solar power back to the grid. “That means homeowners who have solar power have to either consume it or store it,” writes Sidel.
Brett Simon, an energy-storage analyst at GTM Research in Boston, agrees that “Across much of the US, residential storage doesn’t make economic sense,” but, he argues, many Americans are taking on batteries for “emotional rather than economic reasons”.
Ken Munson, co-founder and chief executive officer of Sunverge, which is based in San Francisco and Brisbane, Australia, points out: “Over the next two or three years, you will see a continued decline in the cost of batteries and solar installations, therefore improving the economics.”