When NEC announced it was going to pay USD$100m for A123 Energy Solutions, it was clear that the lithium-nanophosphate battery manufacturer was well and truly back after bankruptcy and a spell of developing its business under the ownership of Wanxiang. As well as cementing the future of A123 after a few tumultuous years, NEC’s purchase represents a huge investment in the future of energy storage. The giant Japanese multinational already uses batteries from AESC, its joint venture with Nissan. Similar to the units used in the Nissan Leaf, these battery storage systems have been used by NEC for both utility-scale storage – a 2MW system has recently been commissioned in Italy by Enel Distribuzione – and in the residential storage market in Japan. The company has also been using batteries from third-party suppliers in a trial with Acea in Rome.
The company’s interest in energy storage was made clear by Hideki Niwaya, vice president of NEC’s smart energy business unit, who told the Wall Street Journal that NEC expects global sales of energy storage systems to utilities to grow from less than $2bn in 2015 to about $6bn by 2020.
Takashi Ohara, executive specialist in the smart energy business unit at NEC, took some time out to talk to us in more depth about NEC’s plans in North America, Europe, Asia and developing economies for grid-scale, grid-edge and domestic energy storage.
Energy Storage Report: What are NEC’s plans for A123 batteries? Are prices likely to go down?
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