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Distributed energy (DE) is making inroads into residential markets in North America and beyond, according to new research from Primen, a subsidiary of the US Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), based on an on-line survey of 1300 households in the US and Ontario, Canada. Although the market for on-site power generation has long been focused on the commercial and industrial sectors, in a recent 12-month period nearly one million on-site generators were sold to households for either their primary residences or vacation homes.
In spite of this, only 6% of US households currently have an on-site generator, most of which are portable models that are exclusively used during power outages and need to be manually started. However, a growing number of homeowners are purchasing permanently mounted, automatic systems, says Primen, and nearly one in six households surveyed has expressed interest in an on-site power system that would produce the majority of their electricity requirements.
In total, about 22% of households would be interested in some form of DE, either for back-up, baseload generation, a utility dispatch leasing programme, or some combination of these.
The study, Residential Distributed Energy: Customer Views and Outlook, provides an up-to-date examination of the market for residential on-site generation in North America, and also reviews the growing markets for residential on-site generation in Europe and Japan, and efforts by some European and Japanese companies to bring their products to North America.
Primen found that many homeowners would be willing to accept fairly lengthy payback periods for their investments in baseload DE. Among households with US$100,000 in annual income, 36% say they would accept a payback of five years or longer while, for the general population, 22% would be willing to accept a similar return on investment.
North American utilities have so far been relatively inactive in the marketplace for residential DE equipment. That could change, however, if efforts to use residential DE for demand response prove successful, or if equipment vendors start actively selling baseload systems to households, says the report.
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