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Redefining the energy business in 2019: Solar Media Editors’ Chat at Intersolar Europe / ees Europe

Two of Solar Media's editorial team (Liam Stoker, UK & Andy Colthorpe, International) got together on the third day of Europe's biggest smart energy trade fair, Smarter-e; with Intersolar and electrical energy storage Europe (ees Europe) all taking place at the same time.

We look at the bigger picture of the role solar PV and energy storage play in the global energy transition and how that then filters down to homes, businesses, electric cars. 

Here are some of the video feature’s key talking points:

Energy supply wars

You’ve perhaps already seen our videos from the show featuring SolarEdge’s augmented reality demonstration of solar (and storage) in three scenarios and Q

CELLS’ launch of the 100% renewable Q Cloud. We have seen everyone from oil and gas majors to car companies and small-scale aggregators launch energy supply businesses. Now, it’s solar’s turn.

Increasingly, solar industry companies that supplied components are becoming suppliers of whole system solutions, or going into the energy supply business themselves as retail utilities. SolarEdge has not only launched enough equipment to power whole cities, it has also bought up Korean battery manufacturer Kokam and will be launching a residential battery storage system using the latter’s NMC batteries. Meanwhile, Q CELLS' Q Energy and Q Cloud system is starting off sales in Germany and the DACH region.

“[Q CELLS’ launch is] Part of a much more significant, wider trend of solar companies really cracking this energy supply equation, making it work and rolling out systems and services that you wouldn’t associate with a technology manufacturer,” our UK editor Liam Stoker says in the video.

The value of energy storage is in the value of flexibility 

A consistent theme applicable to a growing number of geographical markets is the procurement of flexibility by grid operators. In the instance of the UK’s National Grid, the Balancing Mechanism is an important but complex potential source of revenue for battery storage asset operators, while the Capacity Market, considered another important opportunity, remains temporarily shuttered. Battery storage owners operators and aggregators from “across the scale” are getting involved in the Balancing Mechanism, including recent Shell acquisition Limejump. 

Solar going subsidy-free - with storage 

While the falling cost of technology and equipment is vital, a recognition of the value and benefits that energy storage can provide is more important. We estimate that within three to four years, this business case for solar farms with energy storage combined will be strong enough to stand up.

'Coupling' with the EV space

This year, as with each year so far, there were a lot more battery and solar companies providing solutions for EV charging. Policy and regulation perhaps need to be more ambitious, but the changing economics of electric cars being deployed at scale and the need to provide charging infrastructure mean that mobility could one of the biggest hooks for public engagement with clean energy. And for those still unconvinced… EV ownership could be cheaper than petrol vehicles as early as next year, according to some forecasts. 

Low carbon = good business

Why lowering the cost of electricity for businesses is possible now using low carbon solutions - with many we spoke to at the show including IHS Markit analyst Julian Jansen telling us that solar and storage systems are giving commercial and industrial (C&I) customers across Europe the chance to reduce their draw of energy at peak times and bring their fuel costs to zero. We also spoke with providers in this space, including Aggreko Microgrid and Storage Solutions and Tesvolt, which told us about the technologies and business models that make it tick. 

Solutions and opportunities to be found far and wide

Big battery companies like CATL from China were visiting for the first time, while Korea’s Samsung SDI and others are now regular fixtures on the industry show circuit. The latter is a long-term supplier to many system integrators including Tesvolt, while the former is just introducing its technologies to this segment of the battery market, having been prolific in China’s EV market thus far.

We met, saw or heard about companies of all sizes; originating from Ecuador to China to Germany and then Africa and we talk about a diverse range of geographical markets which were hot topics at the 2019 event. While emerging opportunities are always exciting, we briefly discuss Japan, where falling feed-in tariffs (FiTs), coupled with the introduction of competition into the retail energy market and a net zero energy policy for new housing mean that the solar boom is far from over. With the Tokyo Olympics on the horizon for next year, we heard from RTS PV analyst Izumi Kaizuka that battery energy storage is making solar a winner for both the public and for stakeholders in the electric system.

Time to work smarter

As Liam says, there were a lot of new and interesting “associated technologies” on display at the show. Although in many places, the solar industry feels the pressure to perform at low cost, particularly in the wake of falling or decimated subsidies, new and exciting technologies like blockchain and other ways to doing things smarter may dictate the business models that help renewable energy to succeed.

“FiTs are falling across the world now, but it’s not stopping solar at all. It’s only making deployment and development, that little bit smarter. And that can only be a good thing.”

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