A scheme launched in Germany this month could give residential solar a boost by making it possible for homeowners to exchange self-produced energy.
The sonnenCommunity scheme unveiled by Sonnenbatterie, the leading residential energy storage player Germany, allows members to swap excess solar power between each other and thus avoid having to pay utility rates.
Community members are encouraged to store excess PV production in batteries so it can be used for self-consumption, for trading with other users and for the provision of grid regulation services.
Under the scheme, currently only available to German customers, users would pay a flat rate of €0.23 per kWh of community energy consumed, roughly 25% off standard electricity prices.
At the same time, homeowners putting excess solar energy into the community would be eligible for a feed-in tariff (FiT) of between €0.09 and €0.12 per kWh, plus an extra €0.0027 per kWh from a government energy commercialisation incentive.
If the scheme takes off, it could provide an enticement for German consumers to reconsider PV, sales of which have been falling in recent years along with cuts to the domestic FiT.
Philipp Schröder, Sonnenbatterie’s managing director, said sonnenCommunity made it financially viable to install solar and battery storage systems even without a FiT. “The total energy cost for a family will be lowered substantially,” he said.
The company estimates the payback time for a solar-plus-storage system is between nine and 12 years. Its battery systems come with a 10-year guarantee and an expected lifespan of 10,000 charge cycles.
Government incentives have already increased the level of storage being purchased by German households.
According to Sonnenbatterie, 60% of new solar systems are now sold with batteries. In May, EUPD Research predicted 12,500 residential storage systems would be sold in Germany this year.
Around half of battery purchases are made with low-interest loans from KfW, a German state development bank. The loans include a 30% discount on the purchase price.
They are due to end at the start of 2016, although Sonnenbatterie plans to then introduce its own incentive scheme for battery purchases, which it says will offer a slightly better deal than KfW.
It is currently offering an entry-level solar-plus-storage package, including PV, inverter, controls and a 2 kWh battery, for €9,999 including value added tax (VAT). The battery system on its own is being sold for €3,599.
Sonnenbatterie has not said which companies are supplying its PV systems, although Schröder confirmed the company had a strong preference for German manufacturers.
The storage player is planning to attract new customers and sell PV and storage systems using mobile retail pods in shopping malls, airports and stations over the coming months.