The future of European battery energy storage
To better understand the current state of battery energy storage technologies in Europe, Bax & Company has teamed up with SusChem to engage an international network of experts to discuss the main challenges and suggest actions to shape the future of European energy storage. The results have been published in the white paper, Battery Energy Storage, available here. Below are some of the key points of our research.
Impact of increased energy consumption
A booming world population and increasing energy consumption per capita mean that worldwide energy consumption has grown incrementally. The transportation sector has witnessed a similar increase, as there are more cars on the roads, travelling greater distances.
The impact of this growth in energy consumption on both the environment and society is becoming ever more apparent. This has accelerated the development and deployment of Renewable Energy Sources (RES) harvesting technologies and facilities. RES accounted for 24.4% of global electricity production by the end of 2016, compared to 23.3% in 2015 and 18.5% in 2006.
The mobility sector is as well looking for alternative and more sustainable sources to power vehicles. Recent events (Tesla, Dieselgate) have even accelerated the change to alternative fuels. Electromobility is of particular relevance, as eventually, electric vehicles could run on electricity produced by RES. In the case of electricity production from RES, energy storage is vital for storing excess energy when production is higher than demand, while in the case of electromobility, vehicle batteries are necessary as they basically replace the fuel tank.
Energy storage technologies
When it comes to batteries, there is a broad array of technologies, each with its own specific strengths and drawbacks. This makes them more, or less, fit for specific applications like stationary, mobile applications, powering consumer electronics or industrial facilities.
Currently, Li-ion batteries are the most promising technology, particularly for mobility applications, as they are robust, with sufficient energy density and the economies of scale have already driven costs down (e.g. “gigafactories” that divide fixed costs over large production volumes). Still, there are several challenges to be overcome, from reducing the use of rare earth in battery components to substituting expensive raw materials which increase costs.
On the other hand, flow batteries have been receiving growing attention as they provide a cost-effective energy solution primarily suitable for stationary applications. The mechanics of these systems provide a safe alternative as the operating temperature range is lower than that of Li-ion technologies. The challenges which still need to be addressed are the improvement of the electrolytes aiming to increase the system power density (the amount of energy that can be stored per cubic meter, or kg), and finding alternatives to the expensive complexing agents which are used to free up ions, thus further increasing energy density.
Opportunities for European battery stakeholders
On an industry level, Europe is currently lagging behind, with a fragmented value chain. At the moment, the vast majority of battery cell production is in Asia (Japan, China, Korea) and the US. Nevertheless, there are several opportunities for European battery stakeholders. Europe has significant knowledge of fundamental materials technology and engineering in the field of battery management systems, systems integrations, manufacturing machine development, and commercialisation.
Read the complete white paper, Battery Energy Storage, on our complete findings and the future outlook, including main trends and strategy for moving forward regarding the technical, policy, financial and market challenges.