The next five years in energy storage

On December 12, 2017, Senior Energy Storage Analyst Dan Finn-Foley moderated a panel at Greentech Media’s Energy Storage Summit, Crowdsourced Market Insights: Role of Energy Storage in Creating the Grid of the Future. This panel employed a unique structure where experts on stage were asked to interpret and weigh in as 500 senior-level energy professional attendees answered live polling questions on the top themes in the market. Now GTM has published the results of this survey, with additional context from GTM researcher present at the event.

How long until we see more energy storage systems than gas peakers approved for meeting peak load needs?

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Only 1% of attendees feel that natural gas plants will always out-compete storage, a perspective that may have been shaped by Shayle Kann’s earlier presentation indicating that 4-hour storage begins to compete with peaker plants within four years, and always wins financially within ten years. The majority of attendees (63%) foresee energy storage dominance outside of a five-year time frame.

How many utilities will include storage in long-term resource plans by 2022?

More than 4 out of 5 attendees believe 41% or more of utilities will be including energy storage in their IRPs within five years -and their optimism seems justified. GTM Research’s tracking shows the trend is not just emerging, energy storage is becoming the norm in utility planning.

Oregon is a sign of the times for utilities –Portland General Electric recently announced RFPs for up to 39 MW, the upper limitof the state’s energy storage mandate.

What technology has the best chance of supplanting lithium-ion as the dominant utility-scale advanced storage technology?

Flow batteries draw the most optimism, with nearly half of attendees citing them as the most exciting technology for utility-scale applications. As system durations continue to grow flow battery manufacturers are increasingly bullish on their pricing, claiming the high ground for 6-hour or longer duration and even eyeing the coveted 4-hour mark.

Liquid air, hydrogen, and even bacteria were suggested by the audience as alternative energy storage technologies.

Notably nearly one in four attendees believe that lithium-ion will remain the dominant technology indefinitely, and it is hard to argue this point as GTM Research’s tracking recently marked lithiumion’s twelfth straight quarter with overwhelming market share in the U.S.

The next big question is, assuming this will happen, when will it happen? Flow batteries are increasingly obtaining insurance and warranty packages backing up their extended lifetime claims, could 2018 be the an investor bets big on a 30-year lifetime and a long-duration flow solution?

When will behind-the-meter MW deployments outstrip Front of the meter?

Within the next 2 years. Only 2% of attendees believe BTM will outpace FTM within the next 2 years, indicating they believe that sector has a lot of maturing to do before reaching scale.

Within the next 5 years. GTM Research forecasts the BTM segment outstripping the FTM segment within the next 5 years, but only one in five attendees (19%) agrees.

Within the next 10 years. Optimism for the BTM space grows when you get to 10 years out, with nearly one in four attendees (23%) believing the BTM space will be the majority of deployments by 2027.

Within the next 20 years. 16% believe it will be within the next 20 years, indicating they either feel the FTM space is poised for even more significant growth, or the BTM space has been overhyped.

What is the most effective way an energy storage project can differentiate itself from its competitors?

Price – 25%
• Raw dollars and cents continues to be the primary way energy storage can stand apart, both from other sources of “generation” and from other proposed energy storage projects.
• 1 out of 4 attendees don’t see this changing, citing price as the driving force for differentiation.

Performance / economic guarantees – 28%
The most popular answer for differentiation, and partially a subset of the price category, guarantees represent a critical way to not only differentiate, but ease investor or customer anxiety about developing a (still relatively) new technology.

Advanced software and controls –22%
After the spate of software acquisitions in 2016 and 2017 it’s clear that controls can be a major differentiator, driving business cases and extended project lifetimes, and many turnkey providers see their software as the keystone providing value to end users.

Business model / value stacking –22%
“Value stacking” was almost a dirty word at the event, but innovative business models are still a tremendous opportunity for energy storage, as a large number of attendees voted for it.

Technology –3%
Technology was the least popular response, indicating that at the end of the day storage is energy in and energy out, and the technology used to accomplish this is not as important as the results.

What technology plus storage is a match made in grid heaven?

Solar: 71%
Wind: 14%
Gas/steam turbine: 4%
Blockchain: 6%
Only thing that can be married with storage is more storage!: 6%

Source: GTM Research