Energy storage – heralded as a solution to our burgeoning electricity supply crisis – is certain to become an important part of our future energy infrastructure. But what will it take to bring such technologies closer to home, or to the office?
The energy storage revolution is coming – but not quite yet.
Electric cars, LED lighting, reusable bags; many a green innovation has gone mainstream in recent years – and now energy storage is joining the list. Some markets are already seeking out opportunities to capitalise on this: Japan pumped $700 million into energy storage in 2015, with Germany and the US following closely behind – but it has been largely overlooked so far in Britain.
Flexible, independent and resilient
Why the fuss about storage? Well, it is a key enabler of renewable energy systems as it overcomes the limitations of inconsistent weather patterns. It enables storing surplus energy at peak production times and releasing it for use when it is needed.
Investing now to build storage systems that take advantage of local, renewable resources could ultimately save companies money by paving the way to energy independence. “It’s a huge advantage to keep energy locally and bring it back locally when you need it, without having to transport it across the country,” says Franz Jenowein, Director of Global Sustainability Research at JLL.
Batteries for buildings
Thanks to companies like Tesla, the use of batteries to power cars has become known to all. But few know that the very same batteries offer a promising way to store energy, especially renewable energy, for buildings too. They can power lights, computers, heating and cooling equipment during peak times. They can take over during power outages, and they can even provide an alternative to fossil fuel powered back-up generators.
“Batteries can also be connected to the power grid, potentially playing a key role in the emerging smart grids,” says Jenowein. Once you put energy storage systems in buildings and connect to the grid, they become part of this new energy ecosystem.
The new battleground for tech start-ups
The cost of energy storage still needs to come down for the commercial real estate industry to embrace it. “Although there’s excitement around the numbers, it might take up to 10 years for companies to get their return on investment,” says Jenowein.
A sort of ’storage war’ between several UK tech start-ups looks set to achieve this cost reduction. Powervault, for example, is ‘taking on Tesla’ by providing home energy storage systems for British homeowners. Moixa’s system is for residential and commercial uses, and redT’s is for industrial and utility-scale usage. As production increases and more companies get into the game, battery prices will go down – with some predicting a 40% fall over the next five years.
If these projections materialise, some energy storage technologies could displace a significant portion of future fossil fuel generation, potentially enabling further integration of renewable generation.
While all this may sound promising, many components still need to come together to deploy battery storage closer to home, or at business locations like large office buildings, manufacturing facilities, warehouses and multi-use commercial structures. While the potential benefits of such installations could be far-reaching, in order to take off the right regulatory elements, subsidies, incentives, and software all needs to be in place. “The challenge is to make it all work together,” says Jenowein. His prediction: energy storage for use in commercial office buildings will be more commonplace, but probably not before 2025 or 2030.
This article was first published on JLL Real Views.