All Things Home Batteries: NEW Whitepaper Release and Interview with an Industry Expert

Posted by Dave Treston on March 6, 2020 at 9:00 AM

We’ve done the research, dotted the i’s, crossed the t’s and are delighted to share our latest whitepaper on the homeowner’s perspective on home batteries. The whitepaper includes proprietary research that uncovers average homeowners' thoughts on residential energy storage, opportunities to generate interest in residential battery systems and actionable steps to increase home battery installations. Access it for free here!

In the lead up to our whitepaper release, we had the opportunity to co-host a webinar with SunCommon, a fellow B Corp and a leading solar energy provider in the Northeast that has worked with nearly 500 customers across Vermont and New York's Hudson Valley to install home battery systems. Jessica Edgerly Walsh, an Innovation Manager at SunCommon, joined us for both the webinar and a fantastic conversation beforehand to provide insight into what she and her team have identified as motivating factors - and potential barriers - for customers when it comes to residential energy storage installations.

One of the biggest motivating factors? A desire for greater resilience - and options - in the face of power outages.

Check out an excerpt of our conversation below for more:

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KSV: Outages are obviously an important driving factor, but what are other motivating factors that you’ve been seeing in terms of interest in adopting home batteries that have had some success?jessica_walsh_web

Jess: I think almost everyone who is talking to us, they’ve called us because they have some kind of environmental, climate-related motivation … they’re not just looking for generators to solve their outage concerns.        

KSV: When it comes to batteries, is anyone coming to SunCommon thinking about going off the grid?

Jess: Oh, yeah, absolutely.  At least those are the words they use.

KSV: Is that something that you are telling them is or isn’t feasible? We’re curious what your perspective is on that, and what you've been hearing with those conversations?

Jess: Yeah. Most people who talk to us are on the grid right now and are using the words “off-grid” to ask for an energy solution that gives them more control, more independence. It is largely brought up by people in their 30’s and 40’s. Our Head of Field Marketing has told me something along the lines of, "at least once during a big home show, I'm having some kind of conversation about an apocalyptic situation.”

So, yes, we're definitely seeing and hearing this... as the reason why people are calling us about solar or why they're interested in any home battery system.  Very few of them really need to be off grid or want to cut ties entirely with the utility.

KSV: Do you think there are enough folks that are coming and asking those questions because there needs to be an educational effort out there that says, more or less, if your home is not designed to be off grid, then just stay on the grid?

Jess: We just bring those people in, have a conversation with them… If they really push, then we paint a picture of off-grid living. It’s a different lifestyle entirely, even with significant battery backup. They can't access incentive money (from battery or solar adoption) if they're off grid; there's no Federal tax credit; there's definitely no utility program around peak optimization. So, they’d forfeit significant incentive money, and change their lifestyle dramatically… 

Most of the time we don’t even get that far. We’ll start by asking the person, "What are you looking for?" And they might say something along the lines of, “I need to feel like I am more self-sustainable,” or “I really just don't want to rely 100 percent on the grid.” The solution that we provide them with is relatively straightforward: “Okay, let's put in a battery. You can cycle it daily and run your home completely off of solar when the sun shines during the day, and then you're going to run off the battery in the evening. Let's do that.”

KSV: Great... What are the most common things that people ask when they're thinking about installing a home battery?

Jess: How long will it power my house in the event of an outage is the number one question, followed by how much does it cost.

KSV: Do you hear questions about maintenance, or anything like that, or is that so far down the list?

Jess: End of life certainly comes up a little bit.

KSV: Many sources have stated that (the lifespan for) batteries could be about 10 years. Is that the kind of range you provide consumers?

Jess: For the (Tesla) Powerwall specifically it has a 10-year warranty and that is a warranty on capacity. It’s a lithium-ion battery and its lifetime is determined by how much power goes through it, and so at 10 years, its capacity will be 60 or 70 percent. But what we’re finding, and what utilities like Green Mountain Power are finding, is that the degradation is slower than expected.  GMP’s latest program counts on the Powerwall batteries delivering significant grid service for at least 15 years.

KSV: And is that timeline of 10-15 years an added barrier to people?

Jess: No, I don't think so.

KSV: Okay, any other questions that people ask beyond price, maintenance, anything else? How about brand? We know the Tesla Powerwall is the name that people recognize the most. You brought up LG earlier (in the conversation), and we know that there are only just a handful of brands, but does that come into the equation here? Are people expressing preference or talking about different brands at all?

Jess: (In Vermont), they're talking about Powerwall. My guess is it’s largely driven by Green Mountain Power’s (pilot program) work. If anything, we might get a broad question like "Hey, what does the battery tech world look like right now? What direction is it heading?”

KSV: Right. And are there any misperceptions that you know of in the market where people may come in and think one thing about batteries and that's just not true or not feasible? For example, heat pump technology has been around for decades, and people may assume that in Vermont and Upstate New York, where it's a colder climate, that the heat pump is not going to be an efficient option for them. But, the technology has changed and improved so much in the last even five, six years or so that the cold climate heat pumps exist, and they are efficient at sub-zero temperatures. Is there anything similar like that regarding batteries?

Jess: Sort of. People get excited about different uses of batteries, and potentially layering their uses. In actuality, they can't layer.  It can be tricky for consumers if the messaging isn’t clear.

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Thank you so much, Jessica!

Though there is still a lot to learn, one thing is clear: when it comes to residential energy storage, there are plenty of can’t-miss opportunities for energy providers and utilities to serve as critical resources for homeowners. As home batteries continue trending upward consumers will be looking to trusted, knowledgeable sources to help make decisions that keep their families safe in the case of a power outage and provide them with some sort of control over their own clean energy futures.

Dive even deeper into the homeowner’s perspective on residential energy storage with our new whitepaper, available for download now!

Topics: Customer Insight, customer motivations, utilities, Utility Marketing, customer centric, B Corporation, Green Mountain Power, industry expert, KSV research, market research, research, grid infrastructure, natural disaster, Tesla, utility of the future, energy revolution, resiliency, energy storage, demand response, home batteries, consumer research, solar, energy trends, BCorp, residential energy storage

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