Solar power – for many East Coasters, it’s something that’s great for the environment, and it’s just, well, neat. But it’s hard to see how it really could change our everyday lives. Right???
Solar power, combined with new, cheaper batteries to store the generated electricity, will likely lead to mass defections of residential and business customers of electric utilities over the next 15-20 years, the report projects. In fact, by 2030, so many customers in the northeastern United States will sign off from the electric grid utilities that its current business model won’t be sustainable. In other areas, like Southern California, that could happen substantially sooner.
As the installed operating costs of solar-plus-battery systems continues to fall, grid parity will be widely achieved nationally over the next 30 years, the authors project, making it just as expensive for customers to generate their own electricity as to buy it from their local utilities. They also predict that the grid will require massive new investments over that time the existing power grid will require as much as $2 trillion in upgrade investments.
Because the current power grid business model requires customers to pay for approved upgrade investments through higher rates in the years to come, the Rocky Mountain Institute researchers expect as many as half of all utility customers will defect from the grid, and rely on the power they produce.
The study focuses in lithium-ion batteries, currently the ideal for electric vehicles and portable applications. But it also notes that many other types of battery storage technologies being studied and developed today could also help shape the new landscape.
“Even before mass defection, a growing number of early adopters could trigger a spiral of falling sales and rising electricity prices that make defection via solar-plus-battery systems even more attractive and undermine utilities’ traditional business models.”
Nice summary here courtesy of Utility Dive.