Hitachi’s Maxine Ghavi: ‘Grids must be more flexible’

By BEN COOK

  • Hitachi Energy launched storage product with V2G as a key feature
  • SVP Maxine Ghavi says storage uses are emerging in multiple sectors
  • But Ghavi says grid-related delays will slow progress

Hitachi Energy’s size marks it out as one of the bigger players in the energy storage sector.

Headquartered in Switzerland, Hitachi Energy employs around 38,000 people in 90 countries and receives orders valued at a total of approximately $10 billion per year.

It’s latest play in the energy storage market takes the form of its updated ‘E-mesh’ product – launched in November last year – which, Hitachi says, combines “advanced analytics, energy management software, and hardware systems with battery energy storage”.

Key features of the updated product include vehicle-to-grid (V2G) “readiness” for electric vehicle fleets.

V2G is a technology that enables energy to be pushed back to the power grid from the battery of an electric car. 

Energy Storage Report spoke to Maxine Ghavi, group SVP, head of grid edge solutions at Hitachi Energy, to find out more about the new version of ‘E-mesh’, what the biggest energy-storage related opportunities are for the company, and discover what Ghavi believes will be the emerging trends in the energy storage sector.

Could you give us a brief overview of the extent of Hitachi Energy’s involvement in the energy storage sector?

Maxine Ghavi: We have been doing this for more than 30 years, before terms like ‘microgrids’ and “energy storage” really became mainstream. This experience shapes our vision of the future grid. One that is modular, decentralised and smaller, especially in emerging areas like commercial and industrial where we are witnessing, in real-time, how rapidly infrastructure is evolving due to demographic shifts and changing consumer needs. 

Today, Hitachi Energy powers more than 250 energy storage and microgrid projects around the world, with 800MW of storage currently installed and under development. Wide-spread renewable energy adoption and new business models are leading to increased demand for new applications across multiple segments, and this means the way we think about energy storage is evolving. 

What have been the most recent energy storage-related developments at Hitachi Energy?

MG: We recently launched the next generation of the ‘E-mesh’ portfolio [which includes analytics, energy management software, and hardware systems with battery energy storage]. Key updates include: vehicle-to-grid (V2G) readiness for electric vehicle fleets; options for cloud-based performance and monitoring applications; design improvements to the ‘PowerStore battery energy storage system, and more controls and automation.

E-mesh is now well-suited for the fleet EV charging and e-mobility market. This infrastructure uses advanced technologies to control, optimise and coordinate the vehicle charging process, better integrating it with battery energy storage systems and local distributed energy resources (DERs). As use cases evolve, the portfolio provides a platform to address a range of needs, including managing large EV fleet depots, coordinating fast-charging stations, and optimising EV recharging.

What are currently the biggest opportunities for Hitachi Energy in energy storage?

MG: Utilities, grid stability, renewable integration, e-mobility – with an emphasis on fleets – commercial and industrial including urban developments, peak shaving, power quality and remote/island community microgrids. Also, one of the main things that we’ve learned from developing microgrids of all types is the same principles apply to new areas like EV charging. The electrification of vehicle fleets is transforming both public and private transportation. By 2040 more than 30 per cent of the world’s light-duty passenger vehicle fleets and more than 60 per cent of bus fleets are expected to be electric, generating an impressive need for electricity. 

Late last year, we announced a sustainable mobility partnership with Clever, Denmark’s fast-charge EV operator. The goal is to ensure that Denmark’s EV adoption is powered by 24/7 renewable electricity, underpinned with industrial-scale energy storage. By incorporating Hitachi Energy’s battery energy storage system into the design, Clever is able to deliver a sustainable mobility solution to its customers that maximizes the use of clean electricity – from wind and solar – for charging, making it available whenever needed.

Another example is the [Washington DC] Snohomish County Public Utility District (SnoPUD). Commissioned in early 2022, the Arlington microgrid project [which works with Hitachi Energy] represents a critical milestone in SnoPUD’s journey to modernise their grid, while promoting resilience and safety in the region. A major area of focus for the project was the ability to run the project’s microgrid with 100% renewable sources with energy derived entirely from the on-site community solar array. V2G integration is a key piece of the Arlington microgrid project, enabling a one-of-a-kind microgrid solution, and one of the first V2G installations in the United States. Together with the community solar array and advanced battery energy storage, it creates a reliable resource for both the main SnoPUD grid and the microgrid.

What are the biggest energy storage-related challenges Hitachi Energy faces?

MG: The pandemic, geopolitical shifts and resulting economic disruptions have given nations and governments a new urgency to accelerate investments and action plans to deliver the energy transition. The pathway towards carbon-neutrality has one common denominator everywhere – it is always built on much more electrification.  

By 2050, electrification will at least double worldwide compared to today’s level – and in some regions, this increase will be much higher and will happen a lot more quickly. This means new ways of using battery energy storage to integrate more renewables.

As a prime example, ElectraNet, a distribution utility in Australia [which is working with Hitachi Energy], is able to operate a virtual synchronous machineto strengthen their massive network. This project includes over 90 MW of installed renewables — both wind and rooftop solar — to improve reliability for the over 25,000 residents in the Yorke Peninsula. Called the ESCRI-SADalrymple Project, a battery energy storage system combined with smart controls drastically reduced outages from 8 hours down to 30 minutes in its first six months of operations. The solution also improved network reliability to minimise renewable curtailment, maximise reliability, and reduce operating costs. Revenues from the project will offset the entire capital cost within two years of its initiation.

To accommodate the level of investment we are seeing in renewable energy generation of all kinds, there must also be substantial efforts to make our electric grids more flexible and resilient. To accomplish this goal there must be collaboration across the energy industry with both national and regional stakeholders and policymakers. We have seen more of these kinds of conversations and collaboration, and we expect such efforts to increase, particularly when it comes to the challenge of reducing siting and connection delays, which threaten to slow progress.

What do you think will be the emerging trends in the energy storage sector in the coming year?

MG: We are seeing new applications for energy storage emerge across multiple segments. Renewable integration and deployment continue to be strong drivers for utilities – adding battery energy storage improves the ability to dispatch renewables. For utilities, storage can also be added to offer ancillary services and postpone grid upgrades.

In transportation, there is tremendous potential for integrating more renewables, as well as orchestration, management, and energy optimisation related to EV fleets.

Meanwhile, urban and commercial and industrial customers want to optimise consumer consumption while offering new services to their communities.

Overall, the trend is to provide automation and digital solutions able to stack value to increase return on investment. Smart and flexible control and digital solutions able to accommodate multiple applications are a key enabler for new business models. Digital capabilities will also accelerate new, and advanced applications.

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