Batteries at the heart of the energy revolution - EIT InnoEnergy blog

In the last decade, solar power has been the leading power generation technology deployed globally. Wind power takes the third position in this race.

Overall, renewable energy accounts for more than 30 % of total installed power generation worldwide. Common sense would suggest that more than 30 % of our daily electricity demand must be met by renewable energy.  However, as of 2018, less than 8 % of our electricity needs were met by solar and wind power.

The primary reason for this discrepancy is the intermittent nature of solar and wind power. We need electricity to power our cities every second of the day but the sun and the wind are at our disposal only for a limited number of hours.

Conventional power generating assets like coal, natural gas and nuclear power can produce power on demand and are essentially the spine of our power systems. For this reason they are called - base load power plants. Renewable Energy systems have made inroads in our energy systems but are unable to replace base load plants in our electricity systems due to their intermittent nature. But this is about to change.

Our new base load plants

Our personal and professional lives over the last few decades have transformed in unimaginable ways thanks to our smart phones and computers. This can be attributed to the exponential improvement in computing power but an equally important factor is the evolution of batteries. And now, this amazing technology is set disrupt our energy and transport systems. But how?

Batteries have been at the heart of renewable energy systems since time immemorial for a simple reason - it solves the intermittency constraint. But scaling these solutions economically have been difficult due to the high costs of batteries till date.

Solar and lithium-ion battery costs have plummeted by 90 % in the past decade and this one factor will drive the most important energy revolution of our century. Batteries have enabled renewable energy systems to finally claim the elusive title of the most economic base-load power plants in many countries today.

India recently concluded the world's largest renewables plus storage tender for an astounding 1.2 GW capacity which would include at least 3 GWh of energy storage capacity. The system will provide assured supply of clean power for six hours during peak demand. The tariffs for the winning bids came out to be cheaper than recent thermal power tariffs.

Similarly, the city of Los Angeles struck a deal last year to provide 7% of the city's electricity demand using solar and storage where storage would meet the evening demand up to 23:00 hours.

EIT InnoEnergy leading the cleantech revolution

In my decade long experience in the clean tech space, I have witnessed a massive transformation in the outlook towards energy storage. Due to the rapid improvement in technology and plummeting costs, the economic use-case of solar plus storage today is compelling nations worldwide to expand the use of renewables with storage.

To tackle this radical expansion of battery storage, a large workforce equipped with the right skills and education needs to drive this movement forward. EIT InnoEnergy Master’s School is spearheading this initiative.

EIT InnoEnergy offers a tailored Master’s programme geared towards energy storage, creating an ecosystem for innovation as well as accelerating the transition of clean technologies globally.

A clean energy future is here

The plummeting costs of renewable energy and storage technologies are disrupting energy systems as we know them today. A 100 % clean energy future, which seemed like an impossible idea a few years back, is at our doorstep already. We are seeing dramatic shifts already such as Spain shutting down half of its coal fleet as it simply made no financial sense operating them anymore.

There is tremendous research ongoing to improve current battery technologies and creating new battery chemistries which will boost renewable energy’s contribution to our electricity systems.

So the big questions now are: how will the grid of the future look like? And are you ready to play a role in this revolution?

Arjun Gupta,EIT InnoEnergy Master School alumni and Top 30 under 30 Sustainability Leader 2019