Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Elon Musk has announced the release of a new storage battery for home use. The new battery in principle dramatically reduces the cost of going “off grid” – powering your house entirely from solar or wind, and using the battery to provide backup power, to ensure continuous supply.
According to The Guardian;
The electric car company Tesla has announced its entry into the energy market, unveiling a suite of low-cost solar batteries for homes, businesses and utilities, “the missing piece”, it said, in the transition to a sustainable energy world.
The batteries, which will retail at $3,500 in the US, were launched on Thursday at a Tesla facility in California by the company’s ambitious founder, Elon Musk, who heralded the technology as “a fundamental transformation [in] how energy is delivered across the earth”.
Wall-mounted, with a sleek design, the lithium-ion batteries are designed to capture and store up to 10kWh of energy from wind or solar panel. The reserves can be drawn on when sunlight is low, during grid outages, or at peak demand times, when electricity costs are highest.
The smallest “Powerwall” is 1.3m by 68cm, small enough to be hung inside a garage on or an outside wall. Up to eight batteries can be “stacked” in a home, Musk said, to applause from investors and journalists at the much-anticipated event.
I’m excited by this announcement, not because I’m currently considering buying a Tesla battery, but because of the potential this announcement has, for exerting downward pressure on household electricity bills.
Assuming the battery has around 1000 charge / discharge cycles, paying $3500 every 3 years is approaching price parity with some of the more ridiculous electricity utility charges. When you factor in the satisfaction of tearing up your last electricity bill, there is a real chance a significant number of people will be tempted to make the leap.
How will utility companies respond? I suspect they will be forced to cap household bills, to put as much price distance as possible, between the Tesla option, and staying connected to their grid. It will no longer be possible to make electricity rates skyrocket, to treat household electricity consumers as an inelastic revenue source – because now householders have an alternative, to putting up with endless price rises.
The biggest losers from this potential game changer, in my opinion, might be large scale renewable energy providers. Since households now have an alternative to paying ever larger electricity bills, electricity utilities will be forced to keep costs down – they will no longer be able to ignore costs imposed by government mandated renewable schemes. Either the government will be forced to provide higher subsidies, or large scale renewable schemes will have to be scaled back, to keep grid electricity price competitive.