The former colliery town of Stanley in Co Durham has become the first to offer in-home batteries and solar panels for free, in the latest sign of the huge shifts rocking the household energy market. The programme is a joint scheme between the town council and a startup called North Star Solar, and will be offered to all the town’s 35,000 households. It is expected to be followed by others aiming to cut the “big six” energy suppliers out of their traditional market by turning homes into mini power stations. Large utilities such as British Gas and SSE have long dominated the market by operating huge coal- and gas-fired stations whose output they sell to homeowners. Leaps in battery and solar technology, accompanied by huge drops in their production costs, means models such as Stanley’s can now be launched without subsidy for the first time. Solar costs have plunged by 70% in five years, while battery prices have more than halved. North Star’s chief executive, Paul Massara, the former boss of Npower, said the combination of rooftop panels, a lithium battery and energy-efficient LED light bulbs would immediately cut power bills by 20%. The catch is that the council or homeowner must agree to a 23-year contract to allow the company to recoup its initial investment, plus make a return. The electricity rate is fixed annually and rises with inflation.
Sunday Times 12th June 2016 read more »