The role of consumers in the uptake of decentralised energy storage technologies

Peter Taylor, University of Leeds

Various forms of decentralised electricity and heat storage (decentralised energy storage, DES) could play an important role in meeting the challenges of increased energy demand and integrating new forms of low carbon energy supply. Services that can be delivered by energy storage include matching supply and demand over periods from seconds to days, maximising the utilisation of existing and new infrastructure, providing links between heat and electricity systems so allowing trade-offs between the two and ensuring secure energy supplies. However, while the technology development of these small-scale storage systems has received a lot of attention (and new technologies, for example, the Tesla Powerwall and, aggregation platforms such as Moixa’s GridShare are now available) we currently have a limited understanding of the role that households and communities could play in owning or using these technologies, and the benefits that would fall to consumers rather than the energy system as a whole.

In this paper we will consider the role of consumers in the potential uptake of community- and household-scale storage. We will cover three distinct but interlinked aspects; 1) public acceptance of decentralised energy storage, 2) the likely non-traditional business models that will be appropriate for household ownership or use of storage, and 3) the policy and regulatory barriers that these business models may face. The research undertaken used a range of methods including focus groups with the public and a nationwide survey of over 800 households, a review of business model case studies, a review of international of energy storage policy, and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders including local authorities.

  • Our results raise a number of important issues:
    The general public is not currently well informed about DES. Both local and central government are seen as playing an important role in delivering credible information and practical support to help householders adopt the technology.
  • Previous experiences with other energy technologies provided by public institutions is a determinant factor for acceptance and may act as a driver or barrier depending on the “quality” of the experience.
  • A low level of trust in public institutions may present a significant barrier to acceptance.
  • Under current market arrangements and with traditional business models, there is little financial benefit to householders from installing DES, even if they have PV installed.
  • Profitable business models may arise if they are able to successfully ‘stack’ several revenue streams and/or have the option to trade energy with their peers.
  • Thus changes to the regulatory system, combined with a range of innovative business models that allow householders to access new sources of revenue, would provide greater incentives for the uptake of DES.
  • One key consideration going forward, however, relates to the potential impact on welfare for householders slow to adopt.

We will highlight areas for opportunity in the small-scale storage market and discuss potential barriers from the consumer perspective. We will also outline the future research areas that need to be pursued in order to fully understand the role of consumers in bringing forward these technologies and realising their full benefits for both consumers and the energy system.

Comments for BIEE Members only.
Sign in or become a member today.

Sign up to our Events Newsletter

To receive email updates about our forthcoming events and news please sign up here.

Sign Up