The Latest Competitor to Utilities? Tesla!

on November 27, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Solar Energy Remains Popular For Private Homeowners

Quick Take: An excellent article in the Atlantic provides a valuable summary of solar’s existential threat to utilities. Team up rooftop solar with a Tesla battery unit and you can (theoretically) do away with your electric power utility.

In reality of course, few homeowners will really want grid divorce. First, they will want to sell excess power to others, and they need the grid to do that. Second, they’ll want the grid to provide backup power in the event their solar/battery combination isn’t sufficient to power them fully.

Visit the full article, and notice how it weaves in the seven threats listed below. And notice the subtle anti-utility tone. Utilities need to push back with their own side of the story, or companies like Tesla and SolarCity will steer the discussion. – By Jesse Berst

  1. 10-kW Tesla lithium-ion battery packs can store up to three days worth of electricity from solar panels on the roof.
  2. Some homeowners are beginning to talk about becoming “liberated” from utilities with this solution.
  3. PG&E is charging $800 or more to connect solar-battery systems, but the solar industry is fighting hard to get those fees reduced or removed. In October, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a preliminary ruling requiring utilities to connect energy storage systems to solar arrays at no extra cost for the time being.
  4. SolarCity (and similar providers) remove the upfront cost, so the homeowner only has to pay a monthly fee (less than $40 in this example).
  5. SolarCity is the ringleader of a group of solar providers who accuse utilities of trying to “kill energy storage”
  6. What SolarCity is doing for homeowners, startup Stem wants to do for commercial customers by installing $100,000 54-kW battery systems. They will store power when prices are low.
  7. SolarCity and its sister company Tesla have a combined market cap of $18.8 billion compared to $18.3 billion for PG&E.

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.