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Still Charging: Energy Storage Commercialization in Massachusetts

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Institute for Sustainable Energy's picture
Research, Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy

The Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) translates sustainable energy research into urgent action. The ISE is a university-wide center dedicated to developing energy systems...

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  • Jul 31, 2020

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With the mutually reinforcing trends of climate change mitigation and transport electrification, the opportunity for energy storage innovation has never been more apparent. Massachusetts supports a robust community of entrepreneurs who develop and commercialize their inventions in the state.

Recognizing this, the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) and Greentown Labs conducted 25 interviews with a wide array of participants involved in the energy storage innovation ecosystem for ISE’s report, Still Charging: Energy Storage Commercialization in Massachusetts. These interviews focused on barriers, gaps, and strengths of Massachusetts in getting energy storage technologies from lab to the first sale.

Our interviews identified three key barriers:

  • Resource Barriers: Developing a new energy storage technology is not only capital intensive, but requires infrastructural resources that are difficult to locate in the state.
  • Knowledge Barriers: Energy storage entrepreneurship needs a particular mix of business and technical knowledge that are present but siloed in Massachusetts.
  • Policy/Regulatory Barriers: New technologies take time for regulations to adapt and align. In Massachusetts, several regulatory barriers were identified, including the lack of clear permitting pathways, and the risks of lithium-ion lock-in.

From the suggested improvements, the ISE distilled the following strategic goals that should guide ecosystem participants:

  • Catalyze More Interactions between Ecosystem Participants: Knowledge silos hamper progress and prevent successful commercialization. One way to tackle this is to encourage ecosystem members to work together meaningfully, as through a centralizing organization and state policy.
  • Improve Testing in Massachusetts by Improving Testing Infrastructure: Rapid iteration is the key to innovation. However, in battery development, resource challenges make testing difficult and expensive, hampering innovation. Bringing these small scale testing resources in state and improving the ease of piloting are key.
  • Lower Barriers to New and Different Types of Participation: The energy storage ecosystem requires deep technical knowledge, limiting the pool of potential participants.

With these three strategic goals in mind, Massachusetts could cement its place as a global energy storage hub, drawing innovators from across the world to the state.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 31, 2020

Energy storage entrepreneurship needs a particular mix of business and technical knowledge that are present but siloed in Massachusetts.

This is interesting-- I would have thought the siloing of expertise would be a common issue across different industries and technologies, but when the market was big enough (and energy storage certainly is!) that those experts would find their way to each other. But the progress being made, with these goals in particular, should set us up for some progress sooner than later!

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Thank Institute for Sustainable for the Post!
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