The German language is said to have a word for everything. Dunkelflaute – sometimes translated to “dark doldrums” – refers to the times when it is neither windy nor sunny. Dunkelflaute is a major problem for anyone relying purely on solar panels or wind turbines to power their home, business, or charge up their electric car. The answer to this problem is batteries: big, fridge-size batteries that store energy when renewable sources are available and can discharge it when needed so homeowners can flick the lights on, run the dishwasher and stream Netflix. The best-known is the Tesla Powerwall, which has a market-leading 30 per cent share of sales in the US, according to Frost & Sullivan, a consultancy. But the competition is getting more intense since two European groups entered the fray in the past month. First, the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major Shell purchased German start-up Sonnen, Europe’s largest maker of home battery systems. With Shell’s backing, Sonnen hopes to bring its batteries to the masses – a credible threat given it is already market leader in Germany, the largest country by unit sales for home batteries. In the US, Sonnen is also Tesla’s biggest rival with a 19 per cent market share. The market for residential home batteries – like the market for electric vehicles – is rather niche today, but it is growing quickly. According to research consultancy Frost & Sullivan, some 90,000 residential battery storage units were purchased in 2017 led by Germany, Australia and the US, which together comprise nearly three-quarters of the global market. By 2025, Frost expects the market to multiply six-fold to 531,000 units, as battery costs drop and manufacturers’ ability to scale ramps up. A further catalyst should be that more countries will introduce government incentives for homeowners to switch from centralised power plants based on fossil fuels. In terms of revenue, Frost predicts the market will grow from $711m in 2017 to $4.6bn in 2025.
FT 10th March 2019 read more »