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Five Steps to Energy Storage

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Marzia Zafar's picture
Director of Issues Monitor and Innovation World Energy Council

Marzia has over twenty years of experience spanning business, government and non-profit sectors creating and implementing strategies and policies for the new energy system. She has a track record...

  • Member since 2010
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  • Jan 29, 2020

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2020-01 - Predictions & Trends, click here for more

There's a lot that I like about my job, but if I could single out one thing, it would be that as part of a neutral NGO I can pick up the phone and ask energy executives from across the globe about their thoughts on the energy transition and what policy or technology is making the most impact. Most recently, my colleague Pauline Blanc and I spoke with 39 energy executives from 17 countries. The topic - energy storage and what are some opportunities and obstacles to this flexibility tool. The one issue that came up in every single interview was this - yes, battery storage is renewable energy's best friend, but we need to identify all its values and be open to all storage technologies; it can a best friend to the whole system.

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What did we learn? It goes without saying that affordable storage systems are a critical missing link between intermittent renewable power and 24/7 reliability. But beyond solving this salient challenge, energy storage is being increasingly considered to meet other needs such as relieving congestion or smoothing out the variations in power that occur independently of renewable-energy generation. As part of our work we identified 14 separate values for energy storage and 7 different storage technologies. Yes, 7 different technologies and they’re not different variations of lithium-ion batteries. I say this because these days energy storage is almost synonymous with lithium-ion batteries.

What we found is that while there is plenty of visionary thinking, recent progress has focused on short-duration and battery-based energy storage for efficiency gains and ancillary services; there is limited progress in developing daily, weekly and even seasonal cost-effective solutions which are indispensable for a global reliance on intermittent renewable energy sources.

Based on the interviews and the direction of those at the forefront of this technology we are exploring a set of helpful steps for energy storage developers and policymakers to consider while enabling energy storage.

STEP 1: Enable a level playing field - Clearly define how energy storage can be a resource for the energy system and remove any technology bias towards particular energy storage solutions while focusing on how energy storage can contribute to a better energy transition

STEP 2: Engage stakeholders in a conversation - Engage all relevant stakeholders to explore all potential energy storage needs and consider whether alternatives may be more suitable than energy storage

STEP 3: Capture the full potential value provided by energy storage - Provide equitable access to energy storage systems to all market services and products and explore sector coupling opportunities with industry

STEP 4: Assess and adopt enabling mechanisms that best fit to your context - Learn from & with others to identify those policies that best suit to your circumstances and ensure that there is no bias against behind-the-meter energy storage

STEP 5: Share information and promote research and development - Maintain a long-term horizon in mind and promote R&D, especially for long duration storage

The need of energy storage in the energy system is well recognized. Energy storage provides benefits through flexibility and through the possibility of better linking of various energy and economic sectors. The interviews we conducted signal that the applications and technologies which will dominate the market will depend on two things:

  1. Whether the energy sector decides to push forward a wide range of technologies or contin­ues to limit energy storage to battery storage, and

  2. Energy storage is integrated as part of long-term energy policies and enabling regulatory frameworks, market incentives and support of demonstrations are provided

Energy storage is a flexibility tool for the energy system as it continues to decentralize and digitize in order to achieve decarbonization targets. Currently, the industry and the regulator are not optimizing all its values and moreover not taking full advantage of all storage technologies. We have highlighted 10 case studies from countries like Chile, Mexico, USA, Germany and Australia among others in an effort to share best practices with the industry and with the regulator. 

We recently published the insights from the interviews as well as the case studies I mentioned above. You can find them here 


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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 29, 2020

What do you think is the most significant technical challenge to ramping up energy storage? Is it technologically feasible to scale up to a size that can provide the back up needed on the grid as intermittent renewables increase? Or is it more a challenge of cost?

Charlie Clissitt's picture
Charlie Clissitt on Jan 29, 2020

Completely agree Marzia - energy storage offers a very bright future but there's one big obstacle in the way at the moment - ££££! For residential and commercial applications alike. 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 29, 2020

"Recent progress has focused on short-duration and battery-based energy storage for efficiency gains and ancillary services; there is limited progress in developing daily, weekly and even seasonal cost-effective solutions which are indispensable for a global reliance on intermittent renewable energy sources."

Marzia, the effectiveness of batteries for small efficiency gains, voltage regulation, and AC frequency regulation (ancillary services) is undeniable. But if "developing daily weekly, and even seasonal cost-effective solutions" to intermittency is indispensable for replacing fossil fuel, then renewables are useless.

Using renewables together with batteries to provide a reliable supply of electricity has never been demonstrated on a country-wide grid. It's never been demonstrated to work for a large city, a small city, a community, or even a single home. Never. To understand why this is the case requires a fundamental understanding of electricity and physics - but because renewables advocates, with belief exceeding knowledge, are so desperate for a workaround to the fatal flaw of intermittency they will believe anything.

Like terminal cancer patients, they grasp on to whatever offers hope, and the truth - that batteries offer no more hope than astrology, or prayer - is beyond their grasp. The difference, of course, is that cancer patients are only responsible for their own welfare. 


David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Feb 7, 2020


Get out of your box.

Large scale central energy production with distribution is stone dead. There is absolutely no feasibility in any kind of centralization battery storage.

That does not mean that local storage in batteries does not work. 

You are in fact putting Marzia down by your comparison of the content in her absolutely professionally written article with desperate cancer patients. I shall indeed let her respond on her own, but this is not the first, neither the second time where you are using abusive language which seem to shut up professionals. It is very tiring, Bob.


David Svarrer 

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Jan 29, 2020

Shall we think outside box. Hydro-Pumping & Storage (HPS) technique has proved high viability for power system operation. One has to think about merging  dispersed HPS with renewable sources ( wind or/and solar). Main problem is the upper and lower reservouir . If one has been  founded naturally the other has to be design and forming. I beleive that dispersed HPS well be cost effective more than Li- Battery storage.

Susan Brissette's picture
Susan Brissette on Feb 6, 2020

"... we identified ...7 different technologies and they’re not different variations of lithium-ion batteries." Great post - I think it's true of many industries that we get 'stuck' in a mindset about a particular dominant technology and this then diminishes overall innovation because it engenders group think. Thanks for opening our eyes to the diversity in the area of energy storage technologies!

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Feb 7, 2020

What happened to the plans about the "Time cable"? I read an article back in 2014 or 2015, about what they dubbed a time cable, which would provide power from areas with sun across the latitude to areas without sun...

A monstrous construction which would solely provide power for lighting, and the entire idea was to make use of the emerging white colour LED types.

Their calculations were not that bad, as they intended to make use of existing power transmission lines. They went as far as creating light islands in the oceans.

Any news you know on that note? I have failed to find the article again :-(


David Svarrer 


David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Feb 7, 2020

Your article is really valuable. As other respondents I would also like to know what is your experience with Hydro Pumping and Storage as a long lasting battery?? 

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