The U.S. isn’t the only place where consumers are closely watching the solar panel market and wondering when the cost of electricity derived from photovoltaic (PV) panels on their rooftops will be the same as or lower than what they’d pay for power from a utility.
In Australia, a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance says that consumers already can install solar panels and battery storage to provide electricity for less than grid rates, and that the adoption of these twin technologies probably is “unstoppable.”
The prediction was posted at One Step Off the Grid, a new spinoff website developed by RenewEconomy to cover the consumer side of the energy market there.
In a post July 21, Giles Parkinson wrote that even if retail electricity prices remained flat, “rooftop solar PV can already provide power to consumers in homes at well below the price of [grid-supplied] electricity.”
Bloomberg reports the price of PV electricity, with no battery storage, is lower than retail electricity, and well below the cost of grid power when the systems have batteries of either 1 kW or 3 kW. Prices appear about the same now when a 5 kW battery is included in the system, but all of those PV-plus-battery options are well below retail rates in projections going out to 2030.
Similar issues confront the Aussies
Australian consumers and utilities seem to be facing many of the same challenges as their counterparts in the U.S. As prices for PV modules and battery storage fall, the systems grow ever more attractive for homeowners, putting more pressure on utilities to adapt their business models in response.
“Storage technologies as well as PV will be able to provide costumers with electricity at a cheaper cost than the grid,” Bloomberg’s Kobad Bhavnagri says. “And as storage gets cheaper even larger amounts of storage will be able to supply consumers at a cheaper cost to the grid. On economic fundamentals this technology is unstoppable.”
Bhavnagri and others believe 50% of all electricity will be supplied by sources “behind the meter” by 2040, Parkinson writes, but he sees a continuing role for the grid.
“We will still need the grid for different purposes,” Bhavnagri writes, but inevitable changes in the way utilities operate will almost certainly mean a write-down in their value.
“The business model of the networks has to change,” Bhavnagri told Bloomberg. “They have got to sell services instead of kilowatt-hours. Much of what they built is redundant, resulting in excess capacity, and networks are overcharging and not delivering a commodity or service that is valuable to consumers.”
That sentiment is shared by many renewable energy advocates in the U.S. Utilities here have responded to pressure from the growth of residential solar in a variety of ways. A number of them have sought surcharges on solar customers to offset lower sales, but the issue is handled differently from state to state.