In an interview with POWER TODAY, Ashok Saraswat, PhD, Director, Energy Storage Research, NEC Energy Solutions, Inc. Shows how the huge market potential of EVs should lure Li-ion battery researchers to tailor performance parameters to meet EV battery requirements.
How important is it for India to develop a robust energy storage industry?
A reliable, economically-competitive, and environmentally-sustainable electricity system is the cornerstone of a modern society. India has the lowest per capita electricity consumption among the BRICS nations. It is not because power is in low demand here, but it is because power is in short supply. The weak Indian grid system makes a strong case for adding storage components to its energy generation to help bridge the gap between demand and supply.
India has several reasons to develop a robust energy storage industry. To name a few:
i.To meet increased energy demand: Today, every projection of India's energy future forecasts that energy demand will move on an upward curve. To meet the challenge, India has gone flat out to produce energy using the abundantly-available renewable sources; however, storage has not been as big a focus. Lately, renewable plants are planned in conjunction with storage to ease grid congestion and improve grid resiliency.
ii.To support cleaner energy demand: It is predicted that by 2035, developing nations will represent about 80 per cent of the total energy production and consumption, and an extensive share of the required capacity will probably be derived from renewable sources.In the absence of large-scale and efficient energy storage capabilities, much of the excess energy being produced by solar farms or wind turbines is squandered. Storage offers a viable solution to capture clean energy wastage.
iii.To support policy initiatives: Recently, policymakers have made it clear that energy storage capacities can also be included in the hybrid projects. This will bring large-scale solar-plus-storage into the picture. With India aiming to set up 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, deploying storage will help mitigate the variability of renewable resources, and reduce congestion on the grid. A serious desire for 24/7 energy will fuel the growth of storage industry in India.
In summary, storage solutions can ensure a reliable supply of energy to the nearest grid to meet peak energy demands or be transported to parts of the country prone to widespread power outages as well as to millions of houses lacking grid connections. However, the implementation of storage solutions in India will not come without a fair share of challenges.
Which sectors, in your opinion, will drive the expansion of the storage market?
Policymakers have identified four key areas for the storage market in India. They include energy storage for large-scale renewable energy at the transmission level, on-site energy storage integration at the distribution level, rural microgrids and energy access, and storage component in EV plans.
Each of the above sectors will have make some contribution to energy storage. In my opinion, large energy storage integrated renewable power plantswill drive the expansionof the storage market in India. Grid-scale energy storage will pave the way for not only effective large-scale renewable integration and peak load management of Indian grids but also ancillary market services and power quality management. Off-grid storage, in conjunction with renewables, will complement the storage market expansion.
What are some of the new technologies that you might be looking at introducing in the market?
Electrochemical technologies are finding prominent presence in energy storage systems. Among electrochemical technologies, Li-ion batteries have gained wider acceptance in stationary storage due to their ease of availability, superior performance, and favourable total cost of ownership. Lately, the huge market potential of EVs lure Li-ion battery researchers to tailor performance parameters to meet EV battery requirements. This creates a space for alternative battery technologies with attributes closer to match stationary storage requirements.
Zinc (Zn) battery systems (e.g., Zn/air, Zn/C, Zn/Mn, and Zn/Ni), flow batteries (e.g.,Vanadium, Zn/Br), and molten metal batteries are some examples of alternative battery technologies that may find application in stationary energy storage, especially in long duration applications.
Are things on track as far as provisioning of trained manpower and setting up of manufacturing facilities?
Energy storage system manufacturing is truly a multi-disciplinaryenterprise as it requires close association among - to name a few - electrical, mechanical, control electronics, software, firmware engineers, electrochemists, project managers, and EPC engineers. Shortage of trained manpower may be felt in the short term, but it should get corrected as demand matures. While there are several challenges to it, the success of energy storage system will have to be backed by the government through policy incentives.
What are some of the main challenges faced by the manufacturers?
The energy storage market has been constrained by various barriers, which include lack of understanding of storage technology, regulatory framework, significant upfront investments, value recognition, and availability of skilled and experienced workforce to manage the storage systems. In developed countries, these barriers have somewhat softened as they are addressed at various levels. Lead storage solution providers, such as NEC Energy Solutions, are doing a commendable job in educating stakeholders about value proposition and the technicalities of storage technologies; policymakers are doing their bit in setting up reasonable targets; and regulators have stepped up for formulating regulatory framework.
Does the country have the potential to become an important manufacturing hub for energy storage solutions?
The Indian energy storage market being so young can attract many well-capitalised, major industrial players who can establish industry leaderships and leverage the demand potential. However, foreign players are sceptical about the announcements of lofty, aspirational targets of policymakers, many of which are not secured by legislation. Corporations do not invest on the back of an aspirational target. Another area that makes foreign companies wary is the Indian regulations or lack of them. India has to create an environment for industrial players which is defined with fully analysed targets, well understood regulatory framework and clear standards.
What is your outlook for the storage segment in the near term?
The global outlook for the storage segment is positive as the policymakers are taking a holistic overview of the links between the different components of energy (e.g., energy generation and energy storage). This provides an aggregated picture and discourages a siloed approach to energy governance. The government incentives are also aiding the growth of the storage segment.
To expedite energy storage adaption, India should create appropriate institutional structures of decision-making for energy governance. The current structure of multiple "energy" ministries is not conducive to integrated decision-making.
- RAHUL KAMAT