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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 grid-connected and off-grid energy-generation systems for residential, business, and utility customers—often to help integrate rising shares of intermittent 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 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. Batteries are one of the largest and fastest-growing energy-storage markets, led by Li-ion batteries. Li-ion chemistries continue to improve and these batteries are seeing use in an ever-growing range of applications as their costs continue to drop and manufacturing scales increase. Other energy-storage technologies are also seeing wider use, but manufacturers need to overcome cost and other barriers. Regulators and markets are beginning to recognize the value that energy-storage services can provide to a range of customers, and new business models are encouraging the use of energy storage in more areas.

As the covid-19 pandemic accelerates dramatic shifts and challenges in energy markets, the energy-storage sector is well-positioned to help all countries meet increasingly complex energy needs and urgent energy-resilience and decarbonization goals. Predicting how fast the industry will grow and which technologies and players will succeed is difficult, but opportunities exist for a broad range of energy-storage materials, component, and system suppliers. Competition will be fierce in many sectors. At stake are multi-billion-dollar global markets that bridge stationary, transportation, and portable-power applications and offer huge prospects for growth.