Need a new dining table, armchair– or accessories for the solar power system bolted to your roof? UK branches of home furnishing retailer IKEA have begun to sell a new ‘solar battery storage solution’ to help householders maximize the benefits of on-site solar power generation. Thus, the extent and speed of changes affecting the UK’s – and many other countries’ – energy system is yet more visible.
IKEA has teamed up with the UK’s Solarcentury to offer the battery, which should typically allow householders to make use at home of around 80 per cent of the solar power they generate – twice as much as without energy storage.
IKEA customers could join the 900,000 British homes, communities and businesses already generating their own renewable power, a figure up by 12,000 per cent since 2010, according to a new report from sustainability organization Forum for the Future (FFF), commissioned by the Friends Provident Foundation.
But the report goes further – suggesting that forecasts for renewables and battery storage costs and deployment in the UK have been chronically underestimated. The speed of the energy sector’s transformation has caught the incumbent industry both off-guard and fighting for a place in the future energy market. Investors are warned that the ‘old-world business model of large power stations and passive consumers’ is being rapidly undermined by a ‘decentralized, renewable, digitized and people-led approach.’
Existing utilities need to accept and embrace the revolution, says report author Will Dawson from FFF, because they have a fundamental role to play in the future. ‘It’s important that the large energy companies that have dominated for so long are playing their part to the full so we don’t lose the expertise and valuable assets they have built up,’ said Dawson.
Friends Provident is also keen to see utilities surviving the changes, using new business models to persist through what it calls the ‘3D energy transition of decarbonization, decentralization and democratization.’ Investment engagement manager Colin Baines said: ‘We want to see a managed and just transition that reduces the risk of stranded assets and shocks to both the economy and communities.’
The pace of change in energy systems continues to surprise – small-scale local generators, some of them shoppers at IKEA, may be taking on a bigger role than anyone expected.