The electric power industry is now facing a fundamental shift toward a more decentralized grid, known as the Energy Cloud. As highlighted in a previous two-part blog series, technology and financing innovations sit at the heart of this shift as key enabling factors that are driving business model innovation and customer choice. For years, corporate commercial and industrial (C&I) energy and sustainability managers had no say about the price and type of electricity they used. Now, these same managers are choosing to apply new technology and business model innovations to meet their sustainability needs. These new customer needs can be categorized into the following important trends:
- The move to low carbon energy: Many more C&I utility customers now set targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, energy efficiency, and renewable energy procurement.
- The move to more onsite distributed generation: More C&I utility customers now choose to deploy distributed energy resources such as solar PV, demand response, energy efficiency, and energy storage on their premises to generate and sell unused power to the grid.
- Increased access to energy data: New and disruptive entrants have given C&I customers clearer insight into their energy usage and reduction options related to their businesses.
- Increased deployment of energy management technologies: Technology providers have responded to C&I utility customer demands for control over energy use by deploying intelligent buildings technology.
- New offsite renewable energy procurement partnerships with non-utilities: Utilities face competition from non-utilities for C&I customer engagement, as customers now have renewable energy procurement choices from providers and third parties that utilities cannot counter.
Fortune 500 C&I utility customers are seeking cost-effective, customized, and comprehensive energy solutions that can meet these evolving needs without capital expenditures or impact to their day-to-day operations. And the market is just now beginning to respond in a turnkey, comprehensive way.
Navigant Research will highlight how these solutions are being brought to the marketplace to meet Fortune 500 customer needs in an upcoming report titled Energy as a Service, which is scheduled for release in 2017.
Distributed Solar PV Joins the Solutions Table
Given these evolutions, it is now clear that distributed solar PV plus energy storage is starting to take a seat at the table as an integrated component of the solution set that Fortune 500 C&I customers are seeking. The drivers for the development of distributed solar PV plus energy storage markets are highlighted in Navigant Research’s recently released report titled Distributed Solar PV Plus Energy Storage Systems.
For example, Sharp now offers solar PV plus energy storage financing. And Macy’s recently announced another series of solar PV installations, several of which included integrated solar PV plus energy storage. The advantage that a solar PV plus energy storage installation can provide is twofold: a solar PV system can produce energy for use onsite at a per-kWh rate that is lower than the local utility rate, while an energy storage system can guarantee the type of tariff-specific demand charge savings that solar PV alone cannot deliver. Both the Sharp and Macy’s announcements are key examples of technology and financing innovation being deployed to meet the needs of C&I corporate energy and sustainability managers.