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Weekly data: The age of large-scale electricity storage is dawning

Data suggests the world's electricity storage pipeline is six times larger than existing capacity, as grid operators take advantage of rapidly declining battery costs.

By Nick Ferris

The world is in the midst of an electricity storage boom. The global battery pipeline – the amount of electricity storage projects planned or under construction – is six times larger than existing capacity, shows data from global intelligence company GlobalData.

A worker assesses batteries in an electricity storage project connected to the transmission grid in France. (Photo by Philippe Desmazes/AFP via Getty Images)

Countries with massive energy storage pipelines include the US, China, Australia and the Gulf states. Four energy storage projects with 1GW or more of rated power capacity are in the pipeline, of which three are in Australia. Australia’s Clean Energy Council reported there was a 300% year-on-year increase in battery storage in the country in the first quarter of 2021.

As variable renewables like wind and solar account for an ever-increasing share of power generation capacity, policymakers are investing in batteries as a means of ensuring consistent supply. Gas and nuclear are also falling out of favour as a means of providing baseload power, due to their high cost and negative impact on the environment.

The price of lithium-ion batteries meanwhile has been plummeting – from $1,183 (€997.43) per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2010 to $137/kWh in 2020, shows data from research company BloombergNEF – largely thanks to technological improvements and economies of scale in production.

Battery storage will become an evermore vital part of electricity systems if the world is to reach net zero.

“Pairing battery storage systems with solar PV and wind to improve power system flexibility and maintain electricity security [would become] commonplace in the late 2020s,” says the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its net-zero 2050 pathway.

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The IEA adds that storage must increase to 590GW in 2030 and 3,100GW in 2050. The agency estimates there is currently 18GW of capacity in operation; data from GlobalData puts that figure at closer to 12GW. Whatever the case, it is clear massive scaling up of electricity storage will need to take place in order to support the energy transition.

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