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Contributed to by staff & students of The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources


Booming Energy Storage Industry Is Expected

By Boran Li, on 17 March 2015

energy-storageAs decarbonisation being set as a key target by both the UK government and the energy industry, introduction of more renewable energies into energy systems becomes a clear trend for the next few decades. Among many issues debated within the energy arena, there is a consensus that energy storage is vital to unlock the door towards wider deployment and better integration of renewable energies.

One of differences between many renewable resources (such as solar and wind) and traditional fossil fuels is that supply of renewable resources is unstable and to a large extent cannot be controlled by us. This therefore requires energy storage to play the role as a buffer, to smooth out fluctuation of energy generated by renewable resources, avoid damages to transmission grids, and to store up enough energy for meeting expected and unexpected peaking of energy demand.

Around the world, there are four means of energy storage that are widely applied.

Firstly, Pumped Hydro, which means storing energy by pumping water up into a reservoir, is by far the dominant player in this market, more than 90% of global storage capacity is in this form.hydo-storage

Secondly, Thermal Storage, the typical example of which is put away some solar heat during the day time and use them for heating during the night, plays a large role in solar rich country like the US and Spain.

Thirdly, Mechanical Storage that stores energy by compressing air or turning flywheels is important to engineering-loving countries like, obviously, Germany.

Last but not the least, the tomorrow star of energy market, battery!

Thanks to rapidly advancing technology of battery in past few years (although you may strongly disagree every time your smartphone dies), the cost of lithium-ion battery decreased by 80% since 2000 (from 1597 to 320 $/kWh), and there are many other exciting new technologies such as Graphene battery and fast-charging are about to revolutionise the market.

The energy industry is increasingly optimistic about economically competitive battery storage industry and a future energy storage market that is dominated by batteries. A recent report by Citi group estimated that there will be 240 GW of battery storage capacity globally by 2030, that is more than 4 times the current total global storage capacity, and this 240 GW figure does not include batteries to be installed on electric cars! Battery storage is certainly a promising industry for anyone who is looking for investment or career opportunities.

Now, let’s zoom in from the world to our domestic market.

Currently in Britain, there are around 3.24 GW capacity of energy storage, compared with 7 GW in Germany and 8 GW in Spain, and the country that is ranked at the first place in terms of energy storage, Japan, has a capacity more than 25 GW. If we take storage capacity that is currently under construction into account, capacity of the UK literally stays the same at 3.24 GW, whereas Japan has nearly 4 GW of new capacity coming soon, and not to mention China that has almost 10 GW under construction. Look deeper into the 3.24 GW capacity of the UK, vast majority (more than 3 GW) is pumped-hydro that was built long time ago and urgently needs to be upgraded, and battery only takes a tiny weight of less than 2%.

Luckily, government has already recognised the importance of developing more storage capacity, it is planning two new pumped-hydro facilities in Coire Glas and Cruachan with £1bn potential investment, and in order to encourage innovations in battery storage, DECC allocated more than £17m budget as rewards for its Energy Storage Technology Demonstration Competition.

With growing awareness from the government and strong passion from private sectors, it is reasonable to believe we will see a boom in the energy storage market very soon, and this is also what we want to see and need to see.


photo credit: Drax Power Station – Biomass Storage  Copyright Chris Allen and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

photo credit: Upper reservoir and dam of the Ffestiniog Pumped Storage Scheme in north Wales, public domain by its author, Arpingstone at the English Wikipediaproject

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