Special-Edition Viewpoints Address The Pandemic Crisis

In the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, pathways and opportunities in technology commercialization are undergoing dramatic transformation on many fronts. To address Explorer clients' urgent need to understand both the near- and longer-term impacts, we are providing a special set of analyses for May and June about the pandemic's impact on technology commercialization. Because the developments we describe affect multiple technologies, we have organized our standard Technology Areas into six consequential technology domains. (Read the full announcement about these special analyses.)

  • The May 2020 documents identify a wide range of key forces that will likely have a major influence on prospects for the six technology domains, imagining a plausible range of alternative outcomes that these forces could have during the coming five to ten years. These outcomes serve as building blocks for creating effective responses to the pandemic.
  • The June 2020 documents provide a scenarios-based analysis for each of the six technology domains, with emphasis on how the key uncertain forces might interact with and influence commercialization pathways in alternative postpandemic futures. Also available is a special presentation—The Pandemic Crisis: Scenarios for the Future of Technology Development—summarizing the scenarios and their implications for the six technology domains.

We encourage clients to engage with all six special-edition Viewpoints in both May and June to gain a broad view of potential changes and opportunities in technology commercialization. Please contact us if you do not already have access to all six technology domains, and we will be happy to provide you with the remaining articles in the collection.

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About This Technology

Energy-storage technologies, which convert and store energy in devices or physical media for release at a later time, are seeing a huge wave of innovation and implementation worldwide. By serving as an intermediary between sources of energy production and end use, energy storage can address a variety of energy-management needs for centralized, distributed, transportation, portable, and micro applications. Larger-scale energy storage is gaining value as a component of more flexible gridconnected and off-grid energy-generation systems for residential, business, and utility customers— often to help integrate rising shares of intermittent renewables such as solar PV and wind energy. Storage options include conversion of excess generation into mechanical, electrical, chemical, thermal, kinetic, or potential energy forms for short or longer periods. Batteries remain the predominant power source for proliferating portable and handheld devices as well as to drive electric motors in hybrid- and pure-electric vehicles. The development of remote-sensing and microelectromechanical systems is also creating a need for miniature energy technologies that can power micro-size devices.

Many energy-storage systems are still expensive but are becoming more affordable as markets expand. Several factors—electrification in transportation markets, a focus on electricity-grid reliability, high utility peak-power prices, rising renewable-energy generation, a proliferation of electronics with high power needs, and remote-energy-access needs—are driving global investments. The maturity level of technologies varies widely—some technologies such as pumped-storage hydropower have existed for many years, but others such as superconducting magnetic-energy storage are still in their infancy. One of the largest and fastest-growing energy-storage markets is batteries, and advanced battery chemistries continue to improve and see use in an ever-growing range of applications. Li-ion batteries increasingly dominate markets, and their costs continue to drop rapidly as manufacturing scales increase. Other energy-storage technologies are also seeing wider use, but manufacturers need to overcome cost and other barriers to help newer technologies reach their commercial potential. Regulators and markets are beginning to recognize the value that energy-storage services can provide to a range of customers, and regulatory changes are encouraging the use of energy storage in more areas. In addition, many new and established companies are introducing new business models and performance improvements that are helping to drive down costs.

The energy-storage sector can help developed and developing countries meet increasingly complex energy needs as well as urgent energy-security and climate-change goals. Predicting how fast the industry will grow and which new technologies and players will succeed is difficult, in part because of market challenges and complexities. Opportunities exist for a broad range of materials, component, and system suppliers, although competition will be fierce in some sectors. At stake are multi-billiondollar global markets that bridge stationary, transportation, and portable-power applications and offer huge prospects for growth.