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Low-cost batteries will not disrupt (all) energy utilities

This commentary argues that, with the the launch of an affordable lithium-ion home battery – Tesla's Powerwall,  one should not jump to the conclusion that this is the end of energy utilities.

With the launch last April of an affordable lithium-ion home battery – the Powerwall – Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk is betting that batteries are going to become a mass market.

This commentary argues that one should not jump to the conclusion that this is the end of energy utilities. Similar to solar panels, batteries have high upfront costs. The massive deployment of solar was driven by dedicated policy support, in many cases without any kind of cost or volume control. There is no such thing for batteries. In the absence of financing programmes, the author finds that high upfront costs provide an unfavourable starting point for a disruptive development. But he notes that the fact that self-consumption of stored solar energy will soon pay for consumers represents a paradigm shift in the power industry, which should be seen as an opportunity, at least for first-movers.

Fabio Genoese was Research Fellow at CEPS.

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