Why energy storage is a dead-end industry

A report by IFK Berlin on the energy return on investment (EROI) of battery energy storage, when used to balance intermittent renewable energy on a grid scale, suggests it may not be viable.

An IFK Berlin report on the energy return on investment (EROI) of battery energy storage suggests it isn’t viable when used to balance intermittent renewable energy. Photo credit: Guto

Could energy storage send us back to the Stone Age? Galling as it may seem to those of us who view storage as the solution to the problem of renewable energy intermittency, and hence the key to a carbon-free future, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests this might indeed be the case.

The studies have nothing to do with energy storage’s main preoccupation at the moment, which is cost. Instead, they deal with a much more fundamental issue: how much energy it takes to be able to store the energy in the first place.

The concept of energy return on investment (EROI, also called energy returned on energy invested) is critical to energy storage because it provides a measure of whether a particular technology might be appropriate for use at scale.

In essence, if it takes more energy to create a given storage mechanism than the mechanism could ever deliver over the course of its life, then the net result of using the technology is that it will cannibalise power rather than return it to the system.
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Opinion: the negative end of batteries

Batteries undergoing testing.

Batteries undergoing testing. Photo credit: O. Usher, UCL MAPS

This article was previously published in Marine Renewable Energy.

It was probably only to be expected in a market as young and fickle as energy storage. We spend our time espousing the benefits of battery storage then a study comes to light that puts those benefits in doubt.
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