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Shifting motivations: 2016 and the rise of the consumption driven solar consumer

Simon Baggaley

With 2016 set to be a challenging year for the UK solar industry, Simon Baggaley looks at how companies can survive what he calls an "exciting period for our industry despite rough waters in the policy space".

2015 was an eventful year for solar in the UK. Against further increases to deployment, the industry faced a challenging backdrop in the policy space. Companies and industry groups fought hard against Government proposals to substantially cut the feed-in-tariff. This sets 2016 up to be a challenging year but solar is a growing and ever strengthening industry. As an industry we can be resilient by improving our offer to consumers – making the technology case stronger than ever before. The crux of this approach is the integration of storage to the solar system. 

Enphase is developing, and close to deploying in parts of the world, its fully integrated energy management system. This full solution has generation, control, storage and management built in and provides affordable and green energy. The system consists of solar panels with microinverters, a plug-and-play AC battery and the Envoy-S. The Envoy-S monitors consumption and displays to homeowners how much energy they are generating, consuming and storing. 

This software enables the owner to monitor and manage their energy production and consumption remotely from their smart phone. The digital intelligence integrated into the energy management system allows the system to adapt in order to optimise energy usage and savings. This system will make the production and consumption of energy more efficient than ever before. Without storage, home owners are only using 25%-50% of what they generate; with a smart battery, this can increase up to 75%, leading to a major reduction in electricity bills. 

By closing the gap on the efficiency deficit, we are making solar more economical. When the FIT was high, it represented a clear ROI pathway for consumers. They knew that they would benefit from generation in the day and make up revenue with excess directly from the FIT. Now the structure of the offer has changed. With FITs set to be low, the main benefit for consumers is the ability to store up excess and use it in the evening. With electricity bills soaring, the potential financial savings this route offers should not be understated.

Existing solar owners will be able to seamlessly pair up this AC battery with their energy management system to make it as cost effective and sustainable as possible. Enphase anticipates that over 50% of existing home owners with solar panels will be able to incorporate the smart storage solution into their home. 

Smart storage has been made a reality through technological progress on batteries. The modular Enphase 1.2kWh battery gives homeowners significant energy independence as they can monitor and subsequently control the charging and discharging of the battery whilst taking into account their energy generation and usage. It allows them to get the most out of their energy by optimising solar power consumption whilst reducing costs.

Whilst storage is attractive for obvious reasons, upfront costs have always been an issue in solar. Since the early years, costs for panels have plummeted beyond expectations. We hope to see the same pace of innovation and cost-reduction in the battery space too but until then, and with the absence of a FIT for storage, we must be wary that initial costs are a concern for consumers.

This is what makes the modular approach so critical. By having small batteries, we reduce installation costs as a single installer can easily conduct the installation yet it still offers the consumer the opportunity to scale up. The modular approach is also better suited to smaller British homes. Too often batteries have been bulky and poorly designed for British application. Our battery is a little larger than a shoe box and can easily fit inside a garage or utility cupboard. 

Clearly the consumer must be front of mind when it comes to solar technology development. Following panels, the development of in-house monitors that can be downloaded as an app and the inclusion of a battery in the home are examples of the product getting closer to the consumer. They are now directly interacting with these technologies instead of having them out of sight and out of mind on the roof. 

On the technology front this represents the transition from having a solar system to an integrated and intelligent energy system. For the consumer, it represents a transition from being driven by FIT revenue to tackling energy bills and using more of what they generate thanks to the innovation of battery storage. Combined, these transitions, enabled and shaped by technology, mark an exciting period for our industry despite rough waters in the policy space. 


Simon Baggaley is Regional Sales DIrector, Northern Europe, Enphase Energy



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Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Solar electricity