Ontario News

Solar + storage bringing grid abandonment close, panel suggests

It’s entirely possible, thanks to the ongoing decline in the price of both solar power and battery storage, that significant numbers of electricity consumers may soon choose to rely on their own firm, reliable power supply from sources on and in their own home. Many will be able to completely disconnect from the grid, by some time around 2020. Some analysts are projecting that a decade later, by 2030, the number of customers with no grid connected power supply will amount to some 15 – 20% of customers – that is, commercial and industrial as well as residential – having disconnected from grid supply, and that’s not just in cottage country.

          Those dramatic claims were part of the message delivered at a one-day conference on solar finance in Toronto September 18.

          Going by current rates of decline in costs, rooftop solar power plus battery storage in the home – plus maybe a microturbine – will be able to deliver reliable baseload power at a levelized cost of 12 cents/kilowatt by 2020, the panel heard, and at 9 cents by 2030. That latter figure could apply even if the downward price trend stops accelerating, one speaker said. It can be built along with the home and have its financing added into the mortgage. Why would anyone then stay with rising prices and empty promises of reduced costs?

          However there’s a significant risk. As more customers self-generate the cost of supporting the grid is left on the shoulders of ever fewer customers to bear. It’s a scenario that’s been discussed for a number of years, including in these pages. No prescriptions were offered for what to do, but if the actual day is near, those in power will have to take notice.

          On a weighted average, solar and wind are the cheapest forms of generation, panelists said. Rather than objecting to renewables as overly costly, if the Ontario government is concerned about prices, let them set a price they’re prepared to pay for solar and let those who can meet it build. A panelist recommended that the price offer be kept open for a couple of years, saying there may be some takers even at low prices.

          Among other issues, the panel called for virtual net metering, which would allow not just homeowners with solar panels, but members in cooperatively-owned solar farms to displace their personal household consumption from generation facilities located behind meters other than their own.

          See also “More businesses expect to self-generate: study” elsewhere in this issue of IPPSO FACTO.


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