Tesla's foray into energy storage could 'revolutionise energy system'
The news that Tesla is launching a battery energy storage pack is 'another nail in the coffin of conventional utilities', according to a professor of energy policy at the University of Exeter.
Tesla today (1 May) announced it was launching energy storage packs for homes and businesses, based on the batteries used in its electric vehicles.
The 'Powerwall' system stores surplus energy from renewable sources and then releases it when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. "It is very important to smooth out energy generation," said Tesla founder Elon Musk.
American retail giants Amazon and Target have already pledged to adopt the system - which could mark a major breakthrough for clean energy generation.
Exeter University's Catherine Mitchell said: "The potential for competitive energy storage, whether household or utility scale, is another nail in the coffin of conventional utilities.
"Those countries, like Denmark and Germany, with a reasonable proportion of variable power such as wind or solar have seen fossil fuels being displaced from the electricity market and have seen peak energy prices fall, leading to falling profits and share prices of conventional utilities like E.ON.
"Energy storage offers the ability to extend both the displacement of fossil fuels and reduction of prices beyond peaks - making it even worse for companies whose business models are based on fossil fuels and peak pricing profits."
Tesla also offers utility-scale storage by grouping together 100kWh battery blocks up to 10MWh+.
Professor Mitchell argued that this type of viable energy storage system would completely revolutionise enegery generation, away from large centralized power stations.
Professor Mitchell said: "The question is no longer whether decentralisation will happen within the energy system, but when the tipping point will be.
"Increasingly we are seeing a move away from big, centralised power infrastructure towards a decentralised system in which interconnectors and smarter, more flexible distribution grids play a bigger role.
"Governments have got to reset their minds to making policy in an uncertain world they cannot control."
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) also welcomed Tesla’s announcement, claiming that a viable domestic energy storage market could be much closer than many think.
REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said: “Having affordable and efficient energy storage available means individual households can really start to change the way they use energy and considerably reduce the need for fossil fuels.
“We see growth in the energy storage market as fundamental to the widespread adoption and development of renewable energy technologies, and we are excited that domestic storage is already moving towards being a reality for British households and businesses.
"The attention garnered by such a high profile company is welcome, but it’s important to note that the UK has several innovative home grown battery companies that also supply homes and businesses”.
The UK is already home to a Europe's largest battery, while other European countires are trialling other forms of energy storage including a hybrid-flywheel storage plant in Ireland and pump storage in Germany.