Why do we need energy storage?

Governments around the world have committed to reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, in order to fulfil their pledges to the Paris Agreement, improve the environment, and avert the worst effects of climate change.

The extraction and burning of fossil fuels currently accounts for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions, but supplies over half the world’s energy. Now we are starting to witness a transition towards an energy system in which ‘low-carbon’ renewable energy sources like wind and solar power play a significantly larger role.

Unfortunately, wind and solar power produce a variable energy output (a characteristic known as intermittency). As these technologies come to play a larger role in our energy system, it will be a challenge to ensure consistent supply, especially when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

The ability to store electrical energy will be key to ensuring there is a consistent supply when it is needed. When electricity is being generated in abundance, energy storage technologies can convert it to a form that can be stored, before converting it back to electricity (or directly used) when it is most needed.

Energy storage is also likely to play an important role in moving towards a cleaner transport system.

Upgrading and extending electrical grid connections, managing electricity demand from consumers, and using forms of electricity generation that can respond quickly to demand (such as gas turbines or hydroelectric dams) are also likely to play important roles in supporting low-carbon energy.

Find out more

A number of energy storage technologies are currently under development. At the Grantham Institute, we are working towards understanding how the costs and technical characteristics of a range of these technologies might develop over the next 15 years. We model how the most promising technologies could become part of a future energy system that integrates low-carbon power from intermittent, renewable sources with power from the existing grid.

For more information, see our poster on energy storage for balancing intermittent renewables, or get in touch with Sheridan Few or Ajay Gambhir.