Biggest Threat to Utilities Is Not Solar + Storage, It’s Their Own Greed

May 31st, 2017

Disclosure: I sell solar power systems in New Zealand.

I had written a long, obscenity laden rant about the retail energy cartel in New Zealand as the commentary on this story. Upon reading over what I’d written, and cleaning the spit off my screen, I realized that A) I’d written it all before and B) disconnecting from the grid is the one thing these guys understand at this point. As they increase the solar-tax-as-“fairness” narrative, I’ll be stepping up my plans to disconnect from the grid.

I’ve spoken to a Tesla salesperson about using the Powerwall 2 off grid and he told me that there is definitely a plan for it to be usable off grid, but that the specifics—for example, how generator backup would work—have not been finalized. However, if you’re in NZ and want a Powerwall 2 ASAP, Tesla is accepting pre-orders now.

I have no business relationship with Tesla at all, and, in fact, I sell competing systems. I’m actually working against my own financial interests by directing people to Tesla, but I don’t care. I tell my own customers that they shouldn’t buy the battery systems I’m able to sell them because the Powerwall 2 is a better value. The storage industry needs to deal with the Tesla reality and drop prices or die. I refuse to paint lipstick on a pig with stuff from LG, Sonnen, Panasonic, Samsung, Enphase, etc. Am I going to become known as the guy who sold people more expensive and inferior products than what they can get from Tesla? No, I am not.

(Someone will ask why I don’t go sell Powerwalls for Tesla. I had the same idea. It turns out that those jobs are in Auckland only. Assuming I could get one of those jobs, saying that my family and I have no interest in moving to Auckland would be a polite understatement.)

Via: RenewEconomy:

There is no doubting that energy utilities are fully aware of the existential threat to their current business models presented by new technologies – solar and storage and smart software in particular.

That much we know, because they have spent so much time analysing the future and how it might affect the way they manage their affairs. But there is a far greater risk that dovetails with the threat of these new technologies – their own short-term greed.

This is nothing new. Every industry that has faced such momentous transition has faced the same issues. Just ask the print media. Just ask Kodak. Just ask the motor industry. Executives are driven by short-term profit incentives, few are prepared to cannibalise existing earnings in order to position their business for a different business model.

Now we see the utilities going through the same issues. They have assets – poles and wires that stretch across the country like no other network in the world – that are not easily replaced or substituted.

But they have a major problem: as the costs of new technologies fall dramatically, the cost of grid-based electricity is soaring in the opposite direction.

The determination of the network owners and fossil fuel generators to protect their short-term revenue targets is simply making the competition more inviting and giving good reason for customers to look at alternatives. It’s a train crash that is waiting to happen, and no one is too sure what to do about it.

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