The market for photovoltaic systems is facing fundamental change, says Germany-based market research firm EuPD Research. The regulatory framework is changing rapidly, and financial planning for a solar system has become more difficult.
Against this backdrop, the company recently completed a study examining the consumer behavior of PV customers. The findings revealed that customers are often considering storage solutions and are prepared to lower the expectations for system yield.
In Germany, solar subsidies will be modified on a monthly basis beginning in November. Calculation of this degression will be based on the figures for installed capacity for the months July to September. This change will have an impact on customers' purchasing behavior, EuPD Research says.
To date, the strongest sales arguments for PV arrays have related to customers' expectations regarding financial returns. Double-digit returns and short amortization times have helped sell photovoltaic systems without requiring lengthy discussions.
‘The economic feasibility of a PV system is a calculable variable that can be expressed in a measurable figure for customers, even if the method behind the economic calculation and a yield forecast with [an internal rate of return] could be open to discussion,’ says Markus Lohr, chief analyst at EuPD Research.
A total of 88% of those surveyed that installed a system in 2012 – or would like to install a system – stated that they are considering energy storage. According to the study, the average yield expectation following the installation of a storage solution is, depending on when the installation took place, between 2.5% and 3.5%.
According to EuPD Research, if an 8 kW PV system installed in 2009 is retrofitted with a 5 kWh lithium-ion battery, this battery would need to cost about 4,200 euros per kWh to meet the average end customer yield expectation of 2.68%. However, for customers, the topics of self-consumption and independence from utilities are more important than returns.
Customers are even willing to significantly reduce their yield expectations, the survey found.
A sample system with a 5 kWh storage solution can cover between 65% and 75% of energy consumption, regardless of the load profile of the system operator, per EuPD Research's calculation. Without additional storage, the values already range between 43% and 54%. Waiving of 6% yields for an increased independence of 20% would, thus, seem contradictory, according to the company.
Storage solutions have always been a calculation of comparisons, Lohr notes. The economic feasibility of a PV system with storage is dependent on several factors, such as daily load. The development of electricity prices also has a significant influence on economic feasibility.
In comparison to a grid-connected PV system, there is still a considerable amount of explanation needed on the subject of storage, EuPD Research concludes.
‘The sale of PV systems will become more challenging, and it will be up to market participants to find the right answers,’ Lohr says.