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UK’s first Tesla Powerwall customer-to-be hopes industry can avoid ‘false starts’

Sungift's Gabriel Wondrausch was recipient of Solar Power Portal's installer of the year award. Image: Solar Media.
The man who will host the UK’s first Tesla Powerwall in his home has said the British residential energy storage industry needs to avoid “false starts” which could result in “lots of inappropriately installed systems”.

As well as revealing that he has been promised the first residential energy storage system to roll off the EV-maker’s stationary storage line and into the UK, Gabriel Wondrausch of Sungift Energy said at the start of the event, hosted by PV Tech Storage’s publisher Solar Media that he was already concerned this could become a problem for the industry and its customers if it went unchecked.

Sungift, which designs, installs and distributes renewable energy systems, has “probably sent more storage systems back to the manufacturers than we’ve actually installed or put out through the gates,” Wondrausch, the company’s managing director, said.

The event was titled “Enabling the growth of a residential energy storage market in the UK” and brought together participants from across the value chain of the nascent industry. Representatives of storage manufacturers including the UK’s Moixa and Powervault and Germany’s Sonnenbatterie and ASD Sonnenspeicher, all of whom have featured in PV Tech Storage in the past, sat down with trade groups British Photovoltaics Association (BPVA) and Electricity Storage Network, law firm Eversheds, research firm IHS and others.

Participants were asked at the outset of the event to pick one priority area that the UK energy storage industry should concentrate on in enabling such a market to get going. The 15 groups represented brought a range of ideas to the table. Jerry Hamilton, director of renewables and energy solutions at electrical wholeseller Rexel, agreed with Wondrausch’s assertion that the avoidance of a “false start” was essential.

“The training that needs to go in and the first people that go in and will be starting to fit these, we’ve got to hold their hand and make sure they’re doing it right,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton went on to say that training installers to understand the role of battery management in a system is crucial in electricity storage – as opposed to thermal storage, which was also covered briefly at the event – would be essential. Otherwise, he said “…batteries will get a bad name very quickly and it’s not their fault, we need to understand this is not just filling it up and emptying it”.

'Clear policy direction needed'

Meanwhile, Jonathan Cohen, who is a lawyer in the cleantech space at Eversheds and Anthony Price of the Electricity Storage Network industry group, both agreed that a lack of clear policy direction from the UK government could hold industry back.

“If there’s one thing I’d like to see it’s a clear government roadmap or strategic policy going forward about where storage is going to be in the forthcoming years, and I guess by that I mean where does it sit in the regulatory system?

“Currently storage doesn’t have an asset class of its own, [bar regulation] so we need some certainty on those things which will inform consequently business models that storage can be rolled out from,” Cohen said.

Price was more blunt and said that so far, there had been no clear strategy from the UK government – which in the past few weeks has slashed renewable energy subsidies and admitted to an overspend on the Levy Control Framework which controls much of its ‘green budget’.

“…The key point, certainly for the UK, is to uncover what the national strategy for storage should be. That could be a strategy, or having no strategy. It’d be as useful to know there is no strategy as knowing there is one,” Price said.

The event will be covered in greater detail over the coming weeks on PV Tech Storage and Solar Media’s UK publishing channels including the Solar Power Portal website.

PV Tech Storage's publisher Solar Media hosted the event, the first to be officially staged through its Energy Storage division.

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