Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Consumers to be big winners in solar/storage revolution

Giles Parkinson writes:
Last week we wrote that some utilities in Australia — particularly those in regional areas — accepted that the future would bring big changes to the way energy was produced and delivered, and that communities would use local renewable energy sources and storage to look after their own needs.
But what if that change came quicker than even these utilities expected? And if that extended into big towns and the suburbs of major cities? And what if it resulted in a reduction in electricity prices for nearly all consumers?
That is the scenario being painted to network operators and the utilities industry by global consulting firm PwC, which says the sector is about to go an unprecedented and rapid transition as dramatic as that which affected other industries.
Electricity utilities, it says, are about to face their "Kodak moment" and the key is the emergence of rooftop solar, and its ability provide a cheap source of electricity, as well other "enabling" technologies such as storage and smart software.
This, says Mark Coughlin, the power utilities leader for PwC, will fundamentally change the nature of the relationship between utility and the consumer. It will effectively shift the power from the utility to the customer, be they households or businesses, and will challenge the very "right to survive" of the traditional utility. "This traditional utility model where the company controls the electrons' and the consumer has little choice is on its last legs — this model is struggling to meet customer needs," Coughlin says. "Once a household or a business has a solar panel on the roof or some other power source they are no longer a passive consumer."
He says that customers are now emerging as competitors to the the utilities. "In as little as the next five years consumers will exert unprecedented control over energy supply, usage, service standards and costs," Coughlin told the Energy Networks Association conference last week.
Yes, change is coming fast and furious now, an example of Ray Kurzweil's Law of Accelerating Returns.