Renewable electricity is already undermining the big energy utilities’ business model, writes Emma Howard, breaking their monopoly and bringing down energy bills. But with the unfolding battery revolution, it’s going to reach a whole new level as wind and solar powered families and communities become ever more self-sufficient, leaving utilities high and dry. The technology is changing fast. The cost of lithium-ion batteries – the most common type – plunged by 53% between 2012 and 2015 and are predicted to half again by 2019, according to energy analysts IHS. It’s estimated that storage could help to bring about a saving of £8bn to British consumers, secure energy supply for a generation and meet carbon targets. But what would this ‘fundamental transformation’ look like? We put the question to some self-confessed battery geeks. It might seem that those with less money have far less to gain from the great future battery revolution. But if somebody can be found to purchase the infrastructure, it could help poorer people to save significant amounts on their energy bills. In the former coal-mining town of Stanley in County Durham, this somebody has arrived in the form of a partnership between the local authority and a start-up called North Star Solar, which has the former CEO of RWE Npower at its helm. In the first project of its kind, last month the town’s 35,000 residents became the first to be offered solar panels and a home battery system, free of charge. Combined with the effect of replacement LED lightbulbs, the systems are expected to cut residents’ energy bills by a fifth.
Ecologist 15th July 2016 read more »