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Experts predict storage takeoff

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Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner , Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

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Renewables reduce carbon emissions at the cost of reliability. Winds die down, or the sun sets, and grid operators are left scrambling to meet demand. Often, decision makers are left with no choice but to fire up the same old fossil fuel plants that the turbines and panels were supposed to replace. We’ve seen this time and time again in regions with large renewable portfolios, from California to Germany. The renewable optimists, however, have long insisted that improved battery storage technology is right around the corner and will solve all renewable scalability issues. Has that time finally come?

Earlier this week, at the  Wood Mackenzie's Power & Renewables Conference, industry leaders made it seem like battery storage is at a turning point. A recent Wood Mackenzie analysis shows that 910 MWh of energy storage came online in the first quarter of 2021, which represents a 252% increase of the first quarter of 2020. The same report predicts even bigger storage increases over the rest of 2021. Speakers at the conference chalked up the progress to two different factors: maturing technology and better regulation.

Technology innovation in the sector has been rolling this year. Early this month, Malta and Siemens announced they were collaborating on a huge thermal storage project. Then, last week, Form Energy announced plans for a 100-hour iron-air exchange battery that could boast a price point as low as  $20/kWh. 

More enlightened regulation could also pave the way for meaningful jumps in energy storage. On the federal level, Order 841 has pushed regulators to revise storage rules. State-level changes are even more plentiful. To pick one example, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) of Connecticut has set up a nine-year program to deploy 1,000 MW of storage across the state. The plan is part of Connecticut's Equitable Modern Grid initiative. 

The question is whether progress in energy storage will be fast enough to keep up with the country’s increasingly rapid adoption of renewables. For example, The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a 11.5 GW procurement package composed almost completely of renewables. The package is meant to mitigate the kinds of summer blackouts that have plagued the state of late and make up for the generation lost with the closing of the 2.2 GW Diablo Canyon nuclear plant and 3.7GW worth of natural gas plants. That’s a ton of perfectly scalable energy to be replaced by energy that isn’t scalable, at least not without major storage breakthroughs. 

Time will tell how wise decisions like CPUC’s recent procurement package are. If the analysts from Wood Mackenzie are right, California and other renewable adopters should have nothing to worry about. However, it seems credulous to bank on such predictions materializing. Afterall, storage has been touted as a rapidly approaching silver bullet for well over a decade now.


 

Discussions
Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 1, 2021

I'm sure Wood-Mackenzie's "analysis" hyping batteries to power the grid will prove useful to battery manufacturers, who can take it to legislators and present it as something other than slick promotional garbage WM is selling for $4,000 a copy.

It should have at least as much credibility as recent research from the Southland Corporation, showing consuming one 7-Eleven "Slurpee" refreshment each day will help you live longer.

Too funny.

Henry Craver's picture
Thank Henry for the Post!
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