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Ample room for storage manufacturers in UK, says Powervault MD

Powervault has hit or exceeded its crowdfundng targets twice since April. Image: Powervault.
Joe Warren, managing director at UK energy storage start-up Powervault, says there is enough room in the market for multiple storage manufacturers as his company looks set to do battle with Tesla to win over British households.

Powervault has raised £700,000 (US$1.1 million) in finance through crowd-funding platform Crowdcube as it looks to install 50,000 storage solutions in the UK by 2020. The company held a previous Crowdcube funding drive in April which raised almost £400,000 in one day.

The product, which has already been launched in the UK, is available in sizes ranging from 2kWh to 4kWh and the company claims it can be installed by an electrician in less than an hour without the need for any substantial rewiring.

But while Warren says that there is an advantage in being one of the first movers into a new market, he is not worried about the threat of Tesla dominating once its product is released later this year.

“Tesla has done the whole market a favour by bringing the concept of energy storage into people's consciousness. I think if you'd asked most people about energy storage, the average person in the street wouldn't have heard about it so they're doing some great work raising awareness.

“Look at the size of the opportunity - there's potentially millions of people that'll have solar PV systems - so there is room for a number of market players. I think there is a fast growing market available for everybody to address.

“I think the market is a large market, a growing market and there's room for more than one player,” Warren said.

Powervault’s product has been designed with the UK market in mind and tailored to the needs of British households, which Warren says require different configurations to other international households due to different consumption profiles and tariff regimes. Figures released by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) yesterday revealed the country now has more than 690,000 households with solar installations, and the increase has showed no sign of slowing down.

Warren says other storage systems have been designed more with overseas markets in mind, typically the potentially enormous US storage market. US households commonly use between 50% - 100% more energy than their UK counterparts and Warren said that it would make sense intuitively for the US to demand larger battery options than the Powervault line.

“All we're going to focus on doing is listening to the needs of British households with solar PV and designing our product to meet their needs. That's the approach we're going to take, and we're confident that we can succeed on that basis,” he said.

The company charges between £2,000 and £2,800 for its product which, at approximately £700 per kWh, is more than double the cost of Tesla’s Powerwall product. However Warren expects Powervault's costs to fall in line with technology costs and the company’s ability to take advantage of economies of scale as it grows. Additionally, prices quoted for Tesla's range of batteries by its CEO Elon Musk at their launch did not include power electronics such as inverters and other costs such as installation, which Powervault says it has factored in to the prices it gives customers.

The company intends for them to retail for less than £1,000 by 2020 and has secured its supply chain in order for it to do so, working with a British company and “A couple of other players” that could help scale up production rapidly if the need arises.

Tesla has long stated that its own energy storage production would deliver significant cost reductions due to the scale of its Gigafactory manufacturing site in Nevada, with the company expecting the facility to reduce production costs of its Powerwall packs by 30% once fully operational.

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