Residential Solar Power plus Energy Storage looks poised to grow over the coming years as the technology improves, prices come down, and more financing models become available. With new advanced battery storage products coming from companies such as Tesla and SolarCity, Enphase, Sunrun and others, home energy storage will be a hot space and allow homeowners the opportunity to generate, store, and use their own power. Utility executives are keeping a close eye on both the risks and the potential opportunities.
While the solar industry is currently abuzz with the latest 2015 and forecast 2016 numbers for strong growth, there lays a very real risk to nascent residential solar power in the United States; Net Energy Metering (NEM) policy changes, and strong lobbying efforts by incumbent utility companies. Just as clean solar energy generation is beginning to take hold in the US, albeit from a small base (around 1% in absolute terms), significant policy headwinds appear on the horizon.
It’s something clean tech observers and many in the utility industry have long expected, articulated in the form of a report from researchers at engineering and consulting company Black & Vetch: California utilities won’t be able to meet their 2010 renewable energy standard (RPS), which decrees that they must obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources like solar, wind or geothermal. The news comes from Earth2Tech, which reports that even if utilities have set the necessary projects in place, they won’t be online in time—not even by the end of 2010.
The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has released its second annual report revealing which of the nation's utilities have added the most megawatts of solar capacity in the past year, and which utilities have the most cumulative megawatts of solar capacity. The results for 2008 shouldn't be too much of a surprise: the most solar integrated utility was Northern California's PG&E, its 85 MW of new solar capacity blowing the competition out of the water--those 85 MW were over 44% of the total field. Second was California Edison; third, SDG&E. In fact, California utilities occupy 8 of the top 10 slots, with one each for Hawaii and Nevada.
We can transform sunlight and wind into electricity. Why aren't we using these free, limitless natural resources to provide all our power? Of course the answer to that is manifold, involving a lot of words like "deployment" and "technology to scale" and "existing model" and "lobbyists". But all the little details aside, we actually couldn't use renewable resources to power ourselves fully, and the one major hurdle standing in our way is storage.
Not just solar, of course. All branches of the renewables industry suffered another real frustration yesterday when the Senate, once again, failed to extend the renewable energy tax credit, thanks to a Republican filibuster. One wonders if they were reading the Yellow Pages to keep the filibuster going, or perhaps something more relevant, like, say, the quarterly reports of oil companies? Analysts are saying the fault is partly the Democrats', too, for failing to separate out "controversial" issues in the bill from the tax credit, although I'm not sure when funding for renewable energy under the Bush administration ceased to be controversial.