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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Cheap Energy Storage Is Set To Undermine Fossil Fuels

Tesla Storage

What exactly is wrong with renewables, and why aren’t we all-green already? Subsidy abuse and insufficient economic viability in the face of cheap oil are two of the most common criticisms thrown at the renewable industry.

These, however, are nothing compared to the biggest challenge that the green energy industry has encountered: the impossibility to store power produced—at least not in an affordable and reliable enough way.

This is about to change as a growing number of companies – from leading utilities such as E.ON and GE to startups like California-based Stem – are working on developing cheaper energy storage solutions aimed at eliminating a challenge that’s been putting a spoke in the wheels of renewable energy for decades.

Sensing which way the winds are blowing, some utilities and energy industry majors have not wasted time entering this promising segment. Total bought into Stem last year and acquired French energy storage systems maker Saft. Earlier this month, GE announced the acquisition of a stake in Germany’s Sonnen, a successful peer of Saft.

This M&A activity is paralleled by a flurry of studies and surveys, all pointing to the game-changing potential of energy storage solutions. Bloomberg’s latest New Energy Outlook, for example, notes that the constantly declining cost of lithium-ion batteries, thanks to the rise of electric vehicles, will play a leading role for the wider adoption of renewable energy solutions. Related: How Far From An Electric World Are We?

Then there is this survey by Navigant Research, which has projected that by 2025, the overall size of installed energy storage systems (ESS) will reach 21.6 GW, from 1.1 GW this year. That’s a huge increase—driven mainly by the Asia-Pacific. Navigant Research explains that ESS and renewable energy adoption are reinforcing demand for one another: the more renewable energy is being produced, the greater the need for reliable ESS, and the more widely available these ESS, the greater the demand for renewable energy becomes.

Another study, from the MIT, has looked into the various types of ESSs and has found that regardless of type, they make for a good investment right now. Lead author Jessika Trancik notes that prices still have further to fall to boost ESS attractiveness, but they are already offering a reasonable level of profitability. Related: Oil Refining Capacity Set To Surge, But Can It Boost Oil Prices?

Finally, S&P has published a report recognizing the importance of energy storage systems for the future adoption of renewable energy across the world, in keeping with a target for an overall 45 percent share of renewables in the energy mix by 2030. The report notes that ESS capacity must reach 150 GW by that year if the adoption target is to be achieved.

Meanwhile, in Big Oil, Shell has tentatively recognized the need for diversification into renewables. CEO Ben van Beurden has cautioned investors that this diversification will have to be done slowly to avoid hurting profits, while Exxon and Chevron have bluntly refused to acknowledge the importance of climate change and the necessity to take action to counter it. Oil and gas may be “here to stay” but, apparently, not indefinitely, however unappealing this prospect may be for John Watson and Rex Tillerson.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com


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  • Bob on June 14 2016 said:
    It's just talk. Green is very costly and quite far in the future. Current energy is so cheap it will take force to convert. We have enough of Liberals already. Reject their delusions.
  • Tom-Scott Gordon on June 14 2016 said:
    The 'problem' with renewables is not likely actually being discovered in the article above. It's shortsighted engineering that is to blame. It's not about better batteries, but distributed point-source generation. Tiny rotors used in trickling streams could power the entire world with 12/24v systems based on LEDs.

    We don't need more of the same inefficient machines, we need to chuck the crap, quit commuting 2 hrs to work, and start over.
  • Philip Branton on June 15 2016 said:
    Hmm.......the storage will change energy dynamics; but not how people are being told.
  • NGC on June 15 2016 said:
    It's hard to take your "energy" article seriously when you don't know the difference between a GW and a GWh.

    If you did know the difference then you would know that the statement "the overall size of installed energy storage systems (ESS) will reach 21.6 GW, from 1.1 GW this year" tells me nothing, and actually makes no sense.

    Shouldn't people who propound on energy at least know the difference between power and energy??
  • Terry on June 15 2016 said:
    Harbor Freight has Chinese solar panels that will put out above battery voltage with daylight alone. Direct sunlight is higher of course. The moment I can buy high-capacity capacitors that equal a lead acid battery, I'm off the grid. Batteries need full replacement after 7 years, so it's not practical. The fastest cars in 1/4 mile are electric with light weight high-capacity condensors.

    Saddam, Qadaffy, and Chavez all sold gasoline for less than $.25/gal. Any more is a tax. Twelve mpg vehicles is a Rockefeller tax. Killing and stifling over 5,000 free energy patents is a monopolistic tax. The Nazi's built UFO craft and not a single one had a gas tank. We have been enslaved by those that stole our access to technology.
  • charles on June 16 2016 said:
    if you think GE will bring any tech out you are WRONG . They are a CENTER for CONTROL .
    They won't release ANY tech in which they CANNOT control .
    Board members sit on each other boards , and you say there is NOT a conspiracy .

    Inventors are slaughtered and the earth's people don't care .
    Stanley meyer , Ogle , and a whole host of others .
  • jay on June 16 2016 said:
    Green is about consume with extra taxes and flim to flam the gullible...
    So, there is ZERO chance that mass energy storage will become a reality.
  • Todd Millions on June 17 2016 said:
    When it involves GE(Tepco),Tesla(Google ideas)-its a scam to distract and rob the stupid.
    It also wastes time.
    We have storage/load shift &reduction strategies and systems and have had for years.
    These work-keep working and have compelling paybacks.
    So why continue to subsidize tapeworms? Even when they wrap themselves in opera capes and fly to Davos -proclaiming themselves vampires?
    Whether or not a crapmobile rolls down a road powered by batteries or infernal combustion,is not as important as the fact that overall 98% of the heat in the fuel its powered by via battery charge or/and engine is wasted. Which has being the case since the 1920's.
    This isn't an accident.
    Housing- Self chilling (passive); 1940's. Self heating(and cooling, passive);1980's.
    Why don't all or most dwellings since do this? Stupidity convenient to the holders of mortgages on the pieces of crap(stucco tajmahals) that don't. Who are wise bankers who never need bailing out. Ho ho.
    P.S.-despite the not just hasbra purge of the interweb and archives-references to back up all of these contentions are yet(in limited form) available.
  • roddy6667 on June 18 2016 said:
    In 1978 the university of Saskatchewan was building superinsulated houses that used electric baseboard heat and cost $50 a YEAR to heat. This is in area with twice the heating degree days of NYC. The problem of keeping the air fresh and in a healthy humidity range was solved 35 years ago. A $1000 off-the-shelf item now does it. House cooling costs could be reduced by the same amount. This was using very thick fiberglass insulation. Now we have high-R foams, some even made from soybean oil, that only need to be about 6 inches thick.
    What if every new home and office building and factory were built with this technology? Very small amounts of solar and the recycling of waste heat would heat the whole country. It is very cost effective to retrofit old buildings. This was covered in the University's book on the subject in 1978.
    Instead of spending trillions looking for and retrieving new forms of energy, we could use less without changing our lifestyle.
    Back in 1980 an engineer I knew in CT built a post and beam home from a kit from a company in Vermont. He put 4" of high-R foam with foil backing on both sides all around the exterior of the timber frame. Sheetrock went on the inside. Cedar siding on top of plywood went on the outside. He could not find a woodstove small enough. They all required him to open windows. He ended up using electric baseboard heat. He said the house needed so little heat that a toaster in each room would have been more than enough. One small window A/C cooled the entire downstairs. An air-to-air heat exchanger pulled stale, humid air from the kitchen and bathrooms and reclaimed the heat/cooling before being exhausted.

    It's not sexy or new so nobody will do it.
  • Steve A on June 19 2016 said:
    NGC's comment was half-right: one needs to know both the maximum power factor flow rate (say, in kW) AND the storage size (in kWh) of a battery in order for the purchase to be properly evaluated by a customer--businesses especially.

    Assume you run a business that is charged on a demand billing system with your local utility and you decide to buy storage without renewables (solar or wind) in order to reduce your demand charge, because the demand portion of your bill costs more (in some cases a lot more) than your energy charge. You need to know both the flow rate from the battery and how long it will last at that--or a lower--flow rate in order for the purchase to be properly evaluated.

    For those who don't favor renewable energy (RE), don't diss the merits of battery storage because of the link to RE. Once the costs for batteries come down, retailers and installers will figure out how to integrate storage into energy management systems.

    For those who simply have a bias against RE, at least you should become current about the actual costs for , which have come down dramatically over the last few years.
  • Ross Wexford on June 20 2016 said:
    your article paints a very false picture of world energy storage as it misses 99% of the story. Currently energy storage is dominated by pumped hydro electric storage plants which with a combined maximum output of approximately 127GW and an energy storage capacity of 740TWh provide 99% of our world's installed energy storage capability. In comparison batteries are a very minor addition. Equally importantly batteries do not provide the grid stabilization inherent in the heavy synchronous generators installed in pumped hydro plants. An electricity grid requires a minimum level of inertia provided by synchronous rotating machines in order to maintain frequency stability. As more non-synchronous sources of power supply such as wind turbines, batteries, and HVDC interconnectors are added, the requirement for inertia provided by synchronous rotating machines remains, and without this inertia, the grid collapses into black-out.
  • Oilracle on June 21 2016 said:
    " ...bluntly refused to acknowledge the importance of climate change... "
    1) climate is not constant and no one says it is
    2) green movement is where international communists made their home. For them people are pests who must be supervised by their elite politburo.
  • Adel on June 29 2016 said:
    What's not mention in this article is the impact of perpetual motion machines (PMM) on both the oil/gas (O/G) and green renewable energy systems (GRES). A recent proprietary but confidential study indicates that PMM will replace conventional O/G and GRES within 20 short years of PMM development. China is far ahead in the race towards development of PMM as the US and EU concentrate their R&D on ESS and less known areas of the ES.
  • IP on July 09 2016 said:
    There can be other solution instead of Energy Storage. In the All World connected electrical system sun originated electricity in day hours at Sahara desert could be supplied to nights energy needs in USA and and China as well as to days Europe and visa versa from USA deserts to night Europe and Africa. People transfer oil to day exactly the same distances. It is possible to transfer electricity too. Just to unit the World electricity distribution.
  • David Haggith on July 09 2016 said:
    "a challenge that’s been putting a spoke in the wheels of renewable energy"

    Wheels are supposed to have spokes. So, putting spokes in them is a good thing -- makes the wheels capable of going round and round.

    I believe the desired expression here is "putting a stick in the spokes" because that breaks the spokes as they go round and round so they don't go round and round anymore.

    But, alas, you can't lead a horse to water.
  • Ed on July 11 2016 said:
    Hi Irinia, regardless of the nay sayers, this is here, now and the right direction for the future generations. About subsidies, Oil has had and continues to receive it in many many forms beside rebates or dollars, those public Lands, those are every taxpayer's property in the U.S.A. So are the Natural Resources beneath them. See when it's your money being spent on welfare or assistance, This bothers most everyone, but in reality, there is "Farmers aid and corporate subsidy, heckler, everyone is on some sort of Gov funding "WElFARE". If you smoke, buy ya a pipe and you know what do with it.

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