Renewable energies are exploding. Countries around the world are adding clean energy generation capacity at a breakneck pace in a race against time to boost energy security and combat climate change. While environmentalists and economists have been warning for decades that the future of the energy industry – and, indeed, the global economy – lies in renewable energy, not fossil fuels, the leaders of industry and politicians have been slow to adapt. So far.
The massive scale and scope of recent shocks to the global economy (Covid-19 and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine) have been devastating to energy markets as well as bank accounts and consumer livelihoods. 26 million people alone in the UK are expected to fall into energy poverty over the winter months, and the result will be even more devastating in the developing world. But there is a silver lining to the current global energy crisis. The overwhelming magnitude of these shocks proved to be the impetus the world needed to overcome the massive inertia and resistance inherent in a stubbornly carbon-based economy.
As a result, many global leaders in the public and private sectors are seize the moment to catalyze the green energy agenda. From this year, 40% of Forbes 2,000 companies have committed to net zero. That’s twice as much as last year. Meanwhile, two-thirds of European Union countries – 18 out of 27 – set new records for solar power generation between May and August 2022. And according to Statkraft projections, they’re just getting started. Forecasts show that European solar capacity will experience an average increase of between 45 GW and 52 GW each year until 2030 – a massive increase over last year’s pre-war projections.
While it’s great news for the planet that the global renewable energy sector is going wild, the decarbonization agenda faces some challenges. severe growing pains. Additional renewable energy capacity is only useful if the renewable energy infrastructure can keep up with it. Clean energy is not just about wind turbines and solar panels; it is also about increasing the capacity and flexibility of the network. And ultimately, renewable growth is about energy storage.
In fact, a net zero energy future will require a huge 6 TWh of energy storage. A new report predicts that the global off-grid energy storage systems market is expected to grow by $6.22 billion between 2022 and 2026, accelerating by 7%. The problem is that currently, the renewable energy industry is largely dependent on lithium-ion battery storage. This is a problem because these batteries can only hold power for a few hours and they require finite, non-renewable rare earth elements that will become increasingly rare in the future. This presents a major geopolitical minefield, as China chokes off many rare earth element supply chains, of which lithium.
Due to the major pitfalls of lithium-ion batteries, there is currently a race to develop new and better energy storage technologies that are long-term, scalable, and environmentally friendly. A lot of money is being invested in finding the best type of battery to power the decarbonization movement, including major incentives from the Cut Inflation Act.
While there are a litany of promising options for energy storage, one of the most recent developments is also one of the most exciting: the CO2 battery. Battery invented in Italy officially enters US market with funding from Hawaii and the Bay Area Basic Excelerator, which invests in the deployment of climate technologies. The battery uses only water, carbon dioxide and steel, and is efficient, affordable and scalable without geopolitical grip. According to battery manufacturer Energy Dome’s website, “The process involves only two thermodynamic transformations: compression and expansion. This allows for RTEs above 75%. This means the battery can operate efficiently for decades without leaking into the atmosphere.
CO2 batteries may or may not be the future of energy storage, but they are an extremely promising development in a field where there are almost only extremely promising and exciting developments. Now the pressing question is how quickly such technology can be adopted at scale to help grow the renewable energy sector quickly and reliably without perpetuating the kind of reliance on energy supply chains volatiles that created the current energy crisis.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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