Electrical energy storage for mitigating climate change

By DR SHERIDAN FEW, OLIVER SCHMIDT AND AJAY GAMBHIR for Imperial College - London

Effective electrical energy storage will play a crucial role in moving to a world powered by low-carbon electricity. 

Academic and industrial experts agree that effective electrical energy storage will play a crucial role in moving to a world powered by low-carbon electricity.

Irrespective of the need to meet climate change targets, electrical energy storage technologies are essential to further enable the current rapid growth in renewable energy technologies, alongside other technologies to balance supply and demand.

The electrical energy storage technologies that will be in use on a large scale within 5-15 years are likely to have already been invented unless innovation and commercialization radically speed up over historical rates.

Introduction: Electrical energy storage devices are capable of storing electrical energy for use when supply fails to meet demand. These devices are likely to play an increased role in a future energy system, where a higher proportion of electrical energy is generated using intermittent renewable technologies, such as wind and solar. Electricity from these sources is generated intermittently and they cannot guarantee a sufficient supply of electricity on demand by themselves.

There are a number of factors that make it challenging to plan how electrical energy storage can contribute to a reliable, clean future energy system. Firstly, electrical energy storage technologies have not been trialed on a sufficiently large scale. Secondly, there are a wide range of storage technologies, and for many of these, the costs and technical characteristics are not yet well-defined. Finally, there is much uncertainty around the structure of the future energy system so it is challenging to make decisions around the role for electrical energy storage.

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