Smart Cities

California Sparks the Energy Storage Revolution

For years we have been hearing about energy storage and how it will revolutionise the power sector. The key piece of the power puzzle, which will bring together smart building, smart grids, and renewable energy, into a fully functional and self-reliant system. Year after year we anticipate that revolution but it still hasn’t really taken off in the way many expected. In fear of sounding like energy industry writers of Januarys past, I believe 2015 may be the year for energy storage. The headlines over the last 2 years have been progressively generating excitement for the future of energy storage. Their prospects took a big step forward in 2013 when California required its investor-owned electric utilities to implement more than 1,300 MW of energy storage capabilities throughout their respective systems by 2020. Then, in 2014, Elon Musk announced plans for a “Gigafactory” to be located in Nevada with the potential to produce 50 GWh of […]

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For years we have been hearing about energy storage and how it will revolutionise the power sector. The key piece of the power puzzle, which will bring together smart building, smart grids, and renewable energy, into a fully functional and self-reliant system.

Year after year we anticipate that revolution but it still hasn’t really taken off in the way many expected. In fear of sounding like energy industry writers of Januarys past, I believe 2015 may be the year for energy storage.

Energy_Storage

The headlines over the last 2 years have been progressively generating excitement for the future of energy storage. Their prospects took a big step forward in 2013 when California required its investor-owned electric utilities to implement more than 1,300 MW of energy storage capabilities throughout their respective systems by 2020.

Then, in 2014, Elon Musk announced plans for a “Gigafactory” to be located in Nevada with the potential to produce 50 GWh of batteries per year, and Alevo announced its plans to launch a major battery production facility in a former cigarette plant in North Carolina. These ambitious manufacturing developments were matched by the scale of Oncor’s 2014 proposal to invest $5 billion in 5 GW of energy storage systems to be installed over the next five years throughout its Texas-based distribution and transmission system.

The momentum for energy storage that we saw building so promisingly last year has continued into 2015 with various market experts predicting a bullish future for energy storage. Two weeks ago, Navigant Research released new studies which estimate the global market for distributed energy storage systems would grow from $452 million per year in 2014 to more than $16 billion in 2024, and the worldwide market for utility scale energy storage technologies would grow from $164 million per year in 2014 to more than $2 billion in 2023 with total revenues of $68.5 billion in the ten years ending in 2024.

These predictions were accompanied by other similarly optimistic reports for specific energy storage technologies. Research and Markets forecast that the global compressed air energy storage market would see a compound annual growth rate of 25.5% from 2014 to 2019. GTM Research forecast that the solar PV-plus-storage market would grow from $48 million per year in 2014 to about $1 billion per year in 2018. Currently 10% of all new solar installations are being paired with energy storage capabilities, leading to a total installed capacity of 318 MW by 2018.

This market optimism does not appear to be limited to industry analysts. Investors also appear to recognize the growing potential of energy storage as evidenced by news of recent investments in Eos Energy Storage ($15 million private placement with a further planned $10 million placement with accredited investors) and Stem ($27 million equity financing), among many others.

From a regulatory perspective, California continues to lead, when earlier this month it released its Energy Storage Roadmap (ESR) developed by the California Independent System Operator, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Energy Commission with input from more than 400 stakeholders.

California Governor, Jerry Brown, reasserted California’s strong intentions in his inaugural address on January 5th, 2015, that the state should work towards achieving 50% renewable energy by 2030. The ESR focuses on certain stakeholder-identified high priority concerns including expanding revenue opportunities for energy storage applications, reducing costs of integrating and connecting energy storage systems to the grid, and providing greater certainty concerning regulatory treatment for energy storage resources.

While the Roadmap makes clear that it is not intended to propose a strict timeline or plan for implementing solutions to these concerns, it is intended to inform future California regulatory proceedings and the development of additional initiatives and policies. With several other states from New York to Oregon considering how to address energy storage from a policy and regulatory standpoint, it remains to be seen what effect California’s aggressive efforts will have in other states in 2015.

The California ‘experiment’, is now beginning to provide the real world data that policy-makers around the US and the world need to push through their own energy storage strategies.

Energy storage technology has progressed through the initial development stage, on to early deployment, now the most promising devices are ready to roll out, and inspire the next generation.

Advances in the energy storage manufacturing process have brought such technology to commercial viability. Symbolised by Elon Musk’s “Gigafactory” and similar initiatives in the US and abroad.

People are ready to accept energy storage as part of their power system. Policy-making people, industry people, consumers and, perhaps most importantly, investors, are ready to commit to energy storage.

This confluence of factors, which make up the energy storage saga, brings me to my initial conclusion; 2015 will be the year that energy storage takes off.

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