Steffen Schneider, managing director/CFO of Sonnen, talks to Melissa Hancock about how his company is riding the wave as storage systems become the next big solar energy trend
Sonnen is the world’s largest energy storage system company for private households and small businesses, as well as being the global market leader for lithium iron phosphate batteries.
It has supplied more than 120,000 people with electricity from renewable energy sources and installed more than 30,000 battery storage units worldwide.
“We launched our first storage system in 2011 and people were laughing at us because they were wondering who needs a box and a storage system,” Steffen Schneider, managing director and CFO of Sonnen told Impact4All in an exclusive interview.
“In 2017 we generated €65.2m of revenues, so the fact that we are the global market leader gives you an idea of how small the market still is. It’s developing very rapidly, however there’s still a long way to go.”
Schneider says that Sonnen’s current focus is on its core markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland followed by Italy, Australia and the US from which a lot of growth opportunities originate – not only from the sale of hardware, (i.e. the actual storage systems), but also from connecting the various systems together to a virtual power plant and thereby also offering a grid service to its customers.
In terms of key trends that are shaping renewable energy storage systems today, Schneider says that solar is already very cost competitive when compared to other energy generation sources, but that Sonnen and the solar industry more broadly needs to build on that trend.
He believes that by focusing on the cost downs to reduce the payback period then more people will invest, which in turn will drive the energy revolution.
“When I joined Sonnen in 2014, our average payback period was 25 years and now in Germany it is down to between eight to 10 years and 6-8 years in Australia because of greater sunshine etc and we see it falling further,” said Schneider.
“We really see the market exploding at the moment where the payback period will be five years – this will come from further cost downs in batteries and inverters.”
Schneider also believes that digitalisation will drive the renewables revolution.
“Digitalisation and technology like blockchain play a key part in keeping the cost down. For example, we have a project with Tennet where we use blockchain in order to have a very cheap and reliable way of accounting and making sure that all the necessary transactions are recorded in the right way and that we are not creating a huge cost in trying to get it invoiced at the end… and overall when we connect our storage systems from our customers virtually to one big power plant, this is only possible in a cost-effective way when we have digitalisation and we are in a very good position to drive that further.”
Sonnen and Tennet started their first grid-stabilisation pilot project in November 2017 for which Sonnen connected its decentralised residential storage systems to Tennet’s distribution system via IBM’s blockchain technology.
Tennet is the national electricity transmission system operator of the Netherlands and also operates in a large part of Germany.