Between 25GW and 35GW of long-duration energy storage (LDES) will be installed globally worldwide by 2025, amounting to about 1TWh and $50bn of investment, according to a report by the recently formed LDES Council.
The study, carried out by consultant McKinsey, finds that the lowest cost path to net zero power will be by deploying LDES technology — which includes liquid-air, compressed-air, thermal- and gravity-based systems, as well as new battery chemistries such as iron-air — alongside lithium-ion and hydrogen turbines.
And this would require the installment of 1.5-2.5 terawatts/85-140TWh of long-duration storage by 2040 — a figure that would equate to 10% of all electricity being stored in LDES “at some point”, says the report, entitled Net zero power: Long duration energy storage for a renewable grid.
Capacity of this scale — which represents four to seven times the current global installation of battery storage — would require an estimated investment of $1.5-3trn, the council says.
“While this is striking, this figure is comparable to what is invested in T&D [electricity transmission and distribution] networks every 2 to 4 years,” the report points out.
Long-duration energy storage is generally defined as any technology that can output stored energy at full capacity for longer than four hours — the typical length of storage for lithium-ion batteries.
These solutions — some of which can store energy for weeks or months — are widely regarded to be essential to balance the future renewables-reliant power grid, especially when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining for extended periods of time.
Currently, gas peaker plants are being used in such situations, and hydrogen-fired power plants are often mentioned as their replacement. However, converting power to H2 and back again results in energy losses of about 70%, far higher than LDES technologies — along with higher costs.
“We cannot continue to pass the buck; solving for net-zero necessitates a dramatic increase in grid-scale energy storage to incorporate more intermittent, low-carbon resources into our energy mix," saidAdam Briggs, chief commercial officer at LDES Council member Ambri, which produces liquid-metal batteries.
The report adds: “LDES technologies would benefit from government support to kick-start the market as quickly as the net-zero transition demands. Short-term funding for these technologies can be viewed as a long-term investment that will pay off in the form of a lower-cost power system and a de-risked [energy] transition.”
It continues: “In the next five years, significant investment will be required to facilitate the widescale deployment of LDES and achieve a lower-cost decarbonization pathway. It is estimated that by 2025, around $50bn will have to be deployed to install sufficient pilots and commercial plants for early decarbonization while enabling cost-reduction trajectories.
“This funding could come from private sources combined with a level of public support.”
The LDES Council was formed in early November by 25 founding members, including BP, Siemens Energy, the billionaire-led venture capital company Breakthrough Energy Ventures, and 16 technology companies in order to provide advice to governments, grid operators and major electricity users about deploying LDES.
Regular Recharge readers will be familiar with many of the technologies that have been invented by founding members, including: