A recent article in The New York Times made the claim that energy storage technology is “decades away from grid-wide use.” Reporter Jim Malewitz did not define “grid-wide,” so it is difficult to understand how this term is defined for the purposes of the story. We can examine that prediction, though, based on various measures.
One measure could be grid generation capacity of the capacity of installed energy storage. Given that on its own the U.S. grid has about 1,058 GW of total generation capacity, energy storage rightfully appears to be a drop in the bucket – to be precise, 0.07% of grid generation capacity excluding pumped storage and 2.2% including pumped storage. It’s worth noting, however, that the solar PV industry is considered to be successful and growing, and currently represents about 1.1% of total generation capacity in the United States. Moreover, the pipeline for energy storage is expanding rapidly. Approximately 13,000 MW of storage capacity is in the pipeline – 3,000 MW of which is advanced batteries, compressed air, flywheels, and power-to-gas.
Energy Storage Capacity, Installed and Announced, World Markets: 2Q 2014
(Source: Navigant Research)
The First Thousand
A second measure could be the number of markets where storage is present and the variety of technologies in the market. Navigant Research is currently in the process of updating its Energy Storage Tracker, which tracks 30 energy storage technologies in over 600 projects – some of which include more than one storage system. Overall, 952 systems in 51 countries are tracked in the database.
Worldwide, there are 2,497 MW of deployed advanced energy storage projects – this excludes pumped storage, a mature technology that accounts for 124 GW installed. Asia Pacific continues to be the world leader in deployed capacity of energy storage, with 1,184 MW of deployed capacity, which represents 43% of global capacity. New pumped storage makes up nearly 60% of Asia Pacific’s capacity, followed by sodium-sulfur batteries, with 31% market share. The market share of advanced lithium ion batteries is growing quickly in Asia Pacific, with 74 MW installed currently.
Western Europe (762 MW deployed, 28% of global capacity) is primarily composed of power-to-gas, compressed air, new pumped storage, and molten salt technologies. North America (725 MW deployed, up from 566 MW in 3Q13) is more evenly divided among technologies, with compressed air, flywheel, lithium ion, thermal, and advanced lead-acid batteries composing a majority of the capacity. Clearly, a number of markets and technologies are being deployed across grids globally.
One other measure could be the growth of storage relative to a traditional industry. In 2007, 28 MW of advanced energy storage were installed. In the subsequent 6 years, 1,300 MW have been installed. More specifically, installed energy storage grew 28% between 3Q13 and 2Q14. In contrast, electricity sales have decreased over the past several years in the United States, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that electric demand growth will average less than 1% per year between 2012 and 2040.
Although energy storage is unlikely to revolutionize the global grid system in the near term, it will certainly begin to scale up rapidly in the next 3 to 5 years. Perhaps then it will be closer to grid-wide.