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Storage – The Missing Link

Renewables is the buzzword, especially after the successful COP21 event in Paris. All countries are geared up to reduce their CO2 emission targets. Policy makers are contemplating various reforms and regulations to achieve this.

In the 2016 Budget, the Finance Minister has proposed achieving 100% rural electrification by May 2018. This move has been cheered by the power sector as it could translate into a huge opportunity for green energy sources, especially for rooftop solar. Energy storage will also be crucial for the success of this program.

The immediate priority of the government is to intensify its focus on renewable energy (RE). RE is not all about economies to DISCOMS, it is more about economies to the populace of the nation at large. If government encourages off grid RE solutions, it will positively impact pollution levels, thus people’s health. The RE problem is its intermittence in supply and generate when able and not when needed.

Energy storage which is a critical component in the energy ecosystem, can be classified in two buckets – mobility, including electric vehicles (EV); and actual storage in the form of batteries or devices, wherein the energy is stored from the moment it is generated and used as per demand-supply fluctuations. The increasing interest in energy storage for the grid can be attributed to multiple factors, including the capital costs of managing peak demands, the investments needed for grid reliability, and the integration of renewable energy sources, there is the recognition that battery systems can offer a number of high-value opportunities, provided that lower costs can be obtained.

Considering that Storage costs are high at the moment, and is at an inflection point with the sector seeking investments in R&D. The government needs to channelize its efforts under the storage mission in development rather than deployment. This legwork into the development will fructify three years down the line, which can be followed by large-scale deployment.

Technology will have a significant contribution to energy storage in years to come. Today we have highly efficient batteries in the form of Lithium-ion technology, common for electric mobility and electric storage. These batteries are capable of quick charge and higher longevity. This is where the government should augment their R&D efforts on a larger scale and focus on its development.

Storage costs are expected to come down by almost 50 per cent by 2022 with improvement in technology, high supply of storage components and lower manufacturing costs. With peaking tariffs, storage coupled with solar is a promising proposition. Energy stored during the day can be accessed later. Unfortunately, this concept is yet to develop. Despite the progress made by CRC and CAS and the power ministry, the concept of ancillary services is still weak. When integrated into the mainstream, storage and ancillary services will make for a valuable combination.

By itself solar is no longer expensive today. It is storage that is the “missing link” and should be perceived in the right earnest. With a consistent rise in the acceptance of solar energy usage, it is a matter of time before the need for storage multiplies manifolds. With time, as there are improvements in technology, storage will become more affordable at retail levels and power could be generated indigenously, reducing the dependence on grid. Can there be a semblance of grid-less world in individual homes in near future?

Contributed by Sunil Jain, CEO & ED, Hero Future Energies

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