A journalist recently asked me to predict what’s in store for distributed storage in 2017. I thought I would share my predictions with other distributed energy experts. I welcome your thoughts and feedback.
Fortunately for Sunverge and other distributed storage companies, all signs indicate storage will continue its upward growth trend in 2017, with three significant factors at work.
The first is basic economics. The penetration of centralized and distributed solar power will continue to grow. A survey from the Pew Research Center shows overwhelming support for solar power overall in the U.S., with 40% of homeowners considering rooftop installations (to save money and protect the environment). Adding storage to distributed solar immediately increases the ROI on the system by dramatically shortening the payback period. The increase in EV sales will contribute, driving down the cost of batteries (through volume and innovation) while driving up demand for storage to make recharging more efficient; Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that 35% of all new vehicles sold worldwide in 2040 will be electric. This is in line with overall predictions for growth in renewable energy of all kinds: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the fastest growing jobs between now and 2024 will be for wind turbine service technicians, at more than $50,000 annual salary.
Demand for storage will also be driven by continuing changes in net-energy-metering tariffs, along with the addition of demand charges by many utilities (and, eventually, time-of-use rates). There are 13 U.S. states now considering new distributed generation rate designs, including time-of-use and demand charges, while in Australia eliminating its feed-in-tariff has been forecast to lead to 50% penetration of storage with rooftop solar – and there are already 1.6 million rooftop solar installations “down under”. This will create increased demand, not simply for behind-the-meter storage, but for that storage to be ever-more intelligent, with predictive analytics that enable rooftop solar and EV owners to automatically get the greatest possible benefit from their system – and to help utilities manage the complexities of putting so much local generation onto already taxed grids.
Finally, more policy makers around the world are recognizing the value of widespread local solar and storage and strongly encouraging its deployment – Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, in particular, are world leaders, along with the U.S. Even though it appears likely the Trump administration won’t have as strong a pro-renewables energy policy as there has been under President Obama, there remain strong pro-renewables policies in forward-looking states and their governors in Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, New Mexico, Washington, Hawaii and California. It’s not only current governors taking a stand, either: One of the strongest pro-renewable messages comes from former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a forceful and direct statement about why California has been in the lead on this issue for years.
All of these are bellwether states when it comes to energy policy in the U.S., and with respected leaders of both parties agreeing on the need to continue down the renewables path, the outlook for distributed storage remains positive and strong. I am looking forward to continuing the exciting work we’re doing with both current and new customers in 2017.