Energy Storage Added to Corporate Sustainability Toolkit

By Baker McKenzie - Jonathan D. Cocker for Lexology

The momentum arguably started with words and not actions- namely corporate commitments around energy use reductions as part of a broader sustainability and carbon emissions reduction initiative. Then came the more challenging part – meeting those targets: first with energy efficiency improvements at the facility level and then with the purchase of renewable energy, such as solar, wind, and biogas.

And the volumes have quickly become staggering, with many brand name companies, from outside energy generation or heavy industry sectors, being outright leaders in the deployment of renewable energy and advanced energy efficiency systems. So, what’s next for corporate sustainable energy?

Energy Storage: From Institutional to Enterprise

It was only a matter of time before some of the breakthroughs in energy storage seen in the institutional energy sector become directly available to corporations. After all, estimates in the growth of global energy storage are dizzying, with Bloomberg NEF projecting investment of $620 billion over the next 22 years, resulting in a cumulative capacity of approximately 942 gigawatts.

And it’s not only the exponential sector growth, but transformative technological developments such as grid-scale capacity and substantially improved performance with battery designs which have added compressed air, flow batteries, and renewable hydrogen fuel cells to conventional lithium-ion batteries. When paired with increasingly economical renewable energy, the financial proposition behind energy storage has become too good to remain limited to the institutional sector alone.

Sustainable Energy Use Commitments Favour Storage

In crossing into the enterprise sector, a natural patron for energy storage systems is Sustainability. Together with a general ethos of self-sufficiency and a general aversion towards existing (read: aging) infrastructure, most corporate sustainability plans contain commitments around energy usage and sourcing which can easily incorporate storage strategies. In fact, these options fit nicely within many companies’ existing sustainability mandates as storage:

  • Facilitates alternative energy supplies and builds energy resiliency;
  • Assists in meeting emissions-reductions targets;
  • Promotes brands through association with energy savings technologies;
  • Aligns with Environmental, Social and Governance strictures;
  • Reduces reliance on resource-intensive energy sources;
  • Allows for participation in demand management programs; and
  • Endorses greater digitization and other “smart” technologies such as AI-driven storage.

In other words, energy storage strategies can easily augment other corporate efforts around sustainability without the repositioning of the overall undertaking.

Joint Savings Models

A challenge (among others) in advancing novel infrastructure spending to non-conventional targets – such as energy storage units to retailers – has always been some combination of the capital costs and the uncertainties associated with these ventures, however real. But energy storage, and other new energy generation technology offerings, have increasingly adopted new financial models which don’t require large corporate host funding.

Instead, these models avoid start-up cost commitments but instead provide for a sharing of the achieved savings over time, with the host often having no direct ownership in the infrastructure. The savings are fortunately now sufficiently robust that the funding models can now accommodate these types of service offerings.

What might be most attractive for corporate sustainability programs to add energy storage strategies is the timing. Enterprise storage has arrived in an era with established corporate familiarity with energy management, environmental mandates consistent with the technological offerings and easy-entry and cost-effective business models. Wide-scale corporate adoption seems likely to follow.

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