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Vivint Solar turns to LG after Mercedes-Benz hits brakes on home batteries

One year ago, Vivint Solar Inc. announced it would offer its residential customers "the German engineering and performance of Mercedes-Benz batteries." Instead, the home solar specialist is turning to South Korea after Daimler AG recently hit the brakes on U.S. residential battery sales through its Mercedes-Benz Energy unit.

Vivint Solar will offer customers energy storage based on batteries from LG Chem Ltd., an affiliate of the South Korean electronics giant and a leading supplier of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage systems, the company said May 16. "Home batteries can help our customers gain greater control over the renewable energy they generate and play a pivotal role in maximizing value from their clean energy ecosystems," Vivint Solar CEO David Bywater said.

During a May 8 earnings call with investment analysts, Bywater said Vivint had been "testing and analyzing" its energy storage system "for an extended period of time" and has already begun offering LG batteries to customers in Utah. "Our plan is to expand to California this spring and roll out the LG battery offering in other select markets throughout the year," he said.

In a May 9 note to clients, Oppenheimer & Co. analysts said the company's delay in introducing an energy storage product could contribute to a "downside scenario" for investors.

While Vivint has stumbled into the storage market, rival Sunrun Inc. reported that roughly 20% of its California customers now are adopting batteries. "In certain markets in Southern California, this rate is now above 50%," Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich told analysts May 9. Sunrun's energy storage product also relies on batteries from LG Chem.