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Battery energy storage is more valuable than ever – here’s why

Carlos Nieto

Carlos Nieto

Global Product Line Manager Energy Storage for Packaging and Solutions at ABB
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Battery Energy Storage
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Carlos Nieto, Global Product Line Manager Energy Storage for Packaging and Solutions at ABB, highlights the ever-mounting case for battery energy storage. 

The battery energy storage market is accelerating rapidly. For utilities, energy storage is becoming a critical enabler of the eco-transition, given its ability to balance the variability of renewable generation and build resilience. This sits alongside industrial and commercial growth as operators seek to secure reliable power supply amid continued grid instability. 

Batteries are, of course, not a new technology. For years they’ve been used to power our phones and computers, and more recently our vehicles and homes. However, the next and arguably most crucial step for batteries is the evolution towards large-scale battery energy storage adoption.

There are many reasons for this. The energy world is in constant flux. Last year, renewables made up almost a third of global electricity generation. By 2026 this figure will likely be equivalent to today’s fossil fuel and nuclear energy capacity combined.

The rising share of renewables in the energy mix brings with it new challenges. Most prevalent are the structural strains facing an ageing power infrastructure that was designed to generate, transmit and distribute electricity in real-time, under the basic assumption that the amount fed into the grid is always equal to the amount consumed. The inherent variability of wind and solar, including potential imbalances in supply and demand, and changes in transmission flow patterns, make balancing the existing grid problematic.

Added to this, global warming and severe weather events continue to impact energy costs and threaten to increase local power outages. Alongside this, the broader adoption of electric vehicles is set to drastically increase load requirements.

One powerful solution to address each of these challenges is battery energy storage. By allowing electricity to be stored for prolonged periods and released on demand, storage offers an incredibly effective way for utilities to absorb and manage fluctuations in supply and demand, and better accommodate unplanned outages. 

Because storage deployments can be scaled, due to modular manufacturing and deployment approaches, they also enable a rapid, flexible response to evolving requirements ahead of wider grid modernisation programmes. It is no surprise then that this innovation is seeing increased adoption amongst UK utilities with a record-breaking number of battery storage applications made last year. 

But it isn’t just about utility-scale storage. Last year saw soaring global electricity demand push the grid beyond its limits, triggering blackouts in many major economies. Current geo-political tensions are also putting the spotlight on energy security, giving a very real reminder of the threat that energy instability poses for commercial operators.

In response, more industrial and commercial businesses are looking to take matters into their own hands by investing in renewables and smart technologies which can help them do more with less. Battery energy storage forms an important part of this picture, allowing businesses to manage energy costs by leveraging peak shaving, load shifting and maximisation of self-consumption. It also offers the reassurance of critical backup power, preventing revenue losses in the event of a power outage – with a single hour of downtime estimated to cost a large commercial UK organisation £8,500.

The cumulative effect is a record growth trajectory, with the global battery energy storage market predicted to grow from $9.21 billion in 2021 to $26.81 billion in 2028. But with so many different options now on the market, varying greatly in terms of quality and functionality, where do those seeking to invest in battery energy storage even begin? 

Where to begin?

The first consideration should be safety. Any grid provider or commercial operator has a duty of care to ensure safe and secure working conditions for personnel and other maintenance staff. It is incredibly important the energy storage solution which they will be working near to is built to the highest safety standards. This is even more important when you consider that these installations may be located in public spaces, such as parking lots, where children and other vulnerable members of society may be present.

Choosing from a reputable manufacturer who has a proven track record in this area and can guarantee all key standards are met is imperative. Key concerns should be that the solution has been factory-tested and pre-engineered to reduce risk – and contained in a lockable enclosure to prevent unauthorised entry and protect components from vandalism.

Scaling up

Scalability must also be accounted for. The shift to renewables is making it much harder for utilities to predict how much energy they need to supply the grid at any time. The same can be said of large-scale commercial energy users as decarbonisation efforts and the introduction of new technologies make it difficult for businesses to predict what loads they may require a year from now, never mind in five years’ time. In this vein, the ability to grow, support wider strategic objectives and scale up as needs increase is essential when specifying any type of battery energy storage investment.

Going digital

Alongside this sits the digitalisation piece. From monitoring and controlling operations to optimising efficiencies and the analytical power of data, through to the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning, digitalisation is key to providing the insights needed to make better decisions about energy savings and emissions. Energy storage plays a part in this by allowing operators to control use based on new digital knowledge – so any system must not only complement the current infrastructure but future vision. 

For utilities, it is likely that energy storage will form part of a wider grid modernisation programme, while the transition to smart buildings may be the long-term objective for commercial and industrial operators.

Finally, it may sound obvious, but choosing the right supplier can pay dividends. At ABB, for example, we realise that specifying a battery energy storage solution can be challenging. That’s why we work closely with our customers to not just specify the most suitable solution but to ensure that their investment aligns with their strategic goals. This forms part of a long-term partnership approach designed to support each point in their decarbonisation journey.

As the world moves towards its vision of a low carbon society, it is becoming clearer that this cannot be achieved without battery storage. From empowering utilities to deliver renewable energy in an efficient, secure, and resilient way, to helping industry decarbonise, optimise and gain energy security, it’s easy to see why storage has become so widely regarded as our energy future’s unlikely secret weapon.

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