Near-Term Prices Rise, Seasonal Contracts Fall

Near-term power and seasonal contracts continue their recent trends. Government confirms investment in low-carbon innovation. 

The colder weather took its toll on the near-term market last week, with power and gas contracts both experiencing gains. Seasonal contracts, however, moved in the opposite direction – perhaps due to the slight decrease in Brent crude oil. In other energy news, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed its plans to invest around £100mn in low-carbon industrial innovation. 

 

 

Autumn Budget, Carbon Prices and Levies

Power prices move higher, following gas prices. Government’s Autumn Budget underwhelming for energy

Last week’s big talking point was the Autumn Budget. It wasn’t as clear-cut as we expected but important points like the total carbon price were discussed. The government also stated there would be no new low-carbon levies to support renewables until the burden of such costs on the consumer bill is reduced. In the wholesale market, the majority of power and gas contracts increased. Summer and winter 18 contracts grabbed the headlines hitting two-year highs. 

 

The Five Greatest Strategic Moves by Big Companies

A celebration of the most impressive marketing moments across the world

When it comes to doing successful business in the 21st century, there’s only one rule. When everyone else shuffles off to the right, you need to turn left. Innovation and choosing to take the risk is the key to making an impact and securing success in today’s business arena. It is those new companies with a stroke of strategic brilliance or those established brands that go down a fresh road when the one they’re on is growing a little dusty or overcrowded, that get people talking.

In celebration of marketing magic and embracing all that is adventurous about running a business, we’ve rounded up our top five strategic moves by companies who show that following your instincts really does pay off.

 

Nike: Just Do It

 

The Nike motto has become almost as globally renowned as its fitness clothing and footwear, but did you know that once upon a time the brand served only serious marathon runners? When the fitness craze and fitness fashion emerged in the late ‘80s, Nike seized on this opportunity to stride ahead of their competitors and become the go-to fitness brand for anyone and everyone who liked to exercise.

Their ‘Just Do It’ campaign increased sales from $800 million to $9.2 billion in a decade. The brief yet totally on-point wording struck a chord because it so cleverly sums up the often-ambivalent human relationship with exercise. The best marketing hits the right chords and emotions to elicit the desired response in their audience, and no one knows that better than the team at Nike.

 

Dove: Real Beauty

 

 

Tired of seeing the picture-perfect, unrealistically skinny models who had been airbrushed to perfection, Dove decided to turn the beauty ideal on its head and talk to their audience in a language everyone can understand: authenticity.

Their ‘Real Beauty’ campaign launched in 2004 and transformed the idea of beauty from something anxiety-inducing and unrealistic to a concept that spoke to women who want to embrace their beauty without feeling compelled to conform to stereotype.

Their campaign featured older women with grey hair, women with wrinkles, oversized women and ginger women with freckles to show that every single person is beautiful, and no one should be afraid to enjoy their own beauty. They also used hard statistics to back up their message and drive the point home – just 4% of women in the world think of themselves as beautiful.

The campaign worked. Their Real Beauty Sketches campaign was viewed more than 114 million times in 110 countries around the world. That’s some very beautiful results for an ambitious marketing campaign that really paid off.

 

Honda: Amaze

 

Sometimes it’s better to show rather than tell and nobody knows that better than the guys at Honda. Back in 2015 and to promote the launch of the Honda Amaze, Honda Cars India managed to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for ‘the longest journey by a car in a single country.’

Their vehicle took a three-month journey starting in Jodhpur and winding its way across 23,800 kilometres and 400 towns traversing mountainous terrain, country roads and busy cities along the way.  Popular Indian author and public speaker Chetan Bhagat took the wheel with his footage of the journey playing a major role in driving attention towards the innovative campaign.

Radio station BIG FM supported the campaign along the way at its 30 stations around the country, inviting dealers into the studio and hosting live shows across Honda showrooms. When it comes to showing just how good your product can be, creating an epic journey and breaking world records is surely the way.

 

Budweiser: Whassup

 

If you were around in the ‘90s, you were surely one of those people who greeted friends with an overlong “whassuppppppp” for an overlong period of time. This campaign from Budweiser was absolutely flawless and shows the importance of marketing context as it tied perfectly into the pop culture style of the time.

The campaign was also based entirely on silly humour which is always going to go down a storm. It made major traction after appearing at the Super Bowl in 2000, spawning global parodies, winning a sweep of awards and cementing both the phrase and the brand as a major pop culture icon.

It was also groundbreaking in being one of the first examples of viral content as the brand offered the perfect digital alignment – the campaign directed viewers to the Budweiser website where they could learn how to say “Whassup” in more than 30 languages. Traffic levels went through the roof and the Budweiser team patted themselves on the back for a job well done.

 

Old Spice: The Man You Could Smell Like

 

Back in 2009, Old Spice took advantage of one of the golden marketing rules – campaign to those people who are buying on behalf of your target customer. With the wise recognition that women were making most body wash purchases on behalf of their man, they realised there was a need to speak directly to women but without alienating men and long-time Old Spice customers.

The result? A campaign that mocked the entire convention of advertising based on an entirely meta concept – a risk that paid off. When one actor tried a Don Juan take on the script, it broke the ice and got everyone laughing but it was Isaiah Mustafa who tried the smooth-talking version of the ad and won the spot.

The script opened with a handsome, muscled man announcing “hello ladies” and finished with him riding off into the sunset on the beach with the simple phrase “I’m on a horse.” Why? Because it made the team laugh.

It was the subsequent Twitter campaign that cemented its viral status with a slew of videos from Mr Mustafa who employed his “paragon of manliness” status to record responses to enthusiastic audience members including Ashton Kutcher. The campaigns were written in real-time so the creativity was pure.

Sometimes the greatest strategic ideas come at a time when you don’t overthink it. At the end of the day, good marketing is good marketing and these guys know exactly what that means.

Off the Grid

Large-scale battery tech provides a template for major business savings

Thanks to innovators such as Tesla, the answer to the 2017 power question is never a dull one. A case in point took place this week in Logan City, Queensland, Australia. In response to the needs of a growing population, the city council built a brand new reservoir and water disinfection plant.

Using a solar-powered system, it still required a grid connection for cloudy days to continue the chlorination treatment but there was a catch. The facility was located so far away from the power grid that a connection would have cost upwards of USD$1 million. It needed its own power source in order to be economically viable.

 

Cost-effective battery power

A Tesla Powerpack provided a cost-effective and future-ready answer. A total of 323 solar panels were attached to the roof of the facility, harvesting energy to be stored in the 95 kWh Powerpack.

With the hardware estimated to have cost just $100,000 and a transferable concept, the huge savings for companies are immediately apparent. The system and the solar installation power the facility 24 hours a day and ensure that stored water remains of the highest quality. It also removes the need to build a sealed road leading to the facility as the battery operates predominantly as a standalone entity. The facility is ultimately expected to serve a community of 200,000 people.

As the first Australian facility of its kind to be supplied with electricity in this way to go off grid, the facility sets a new global standard. Logan Mayor Luke Smith has already confirmed that the concept is being considered for other infrastructure projects and this is a template that could be rolled out globally.

 

Saving money for business

Designing cost-effective batteries to store electricity on a massive scale is a game changer for utilities and big business. With the cost of batteries falling fast alongside the cost of solar panels as part of our smart energy future, the energy storage industry is about to break wide open.

While solar power is a major renewable source during the sunniest part of the day in many countries, it provides no power at night. Batteries offer optimum energy efficiency and a way to smooth out the power supply and store electricity from off-peak hours to be used during peak demand times. By shifting the peak, businesses will see a major decrease in their energy bill.

 

From Business to Consumers

Australia is certainly one to watch when it comes to renewables and energy innovation. The country will soon be home to the most powerful energy storage project in the world, again courtesy of a groundbreaking Tesla project located in South Australia. When it is complete, a 100MW/129MWh utility-grade battery bank will be the largest grid-tied system ever made.

Public mindset plays a major part in this innovation, as the community is willing and open to change. A poll of 2000 households by the Climate Council found that Australians believe household solar storage batteries are the key to a cheaper and more reliable energy management system.

Batteries are a key area where this broader outlook is apparent with Powerpacks playing a major role in the changing landscape. The greatest benefit of batteries is their modular flexibility to scale and fit a variety of energy storage solutions and capacities exceeding 100MWh.

 

A Fully Charged Sustainable Future

The survey results also showed that 68 per cent of households with solar panels are considering purchasing a battery and that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed believe the combination of batteries and solar systems will become commonplace within a decade.

The main motivator is to cut the energy bill and it can’t be long before this advanced level of battery tech becomes more economically accessible for households on the grid as well as businesses of all sizes.

More than half of those polled also said that they expected large-scale batteries like the one being built by Elon Musk in South Australia would become commonplace in the next 10 years. The country already produces enough renewable energy to power 70 percent of homes and the Council of Sydney has pledged to make the city run entirely on renewables by 2030. With this track record, it seems wise to keep an eye out on the latest energy developments down under.

Here at Planet9 Energy, we keep you updated on the latest innovative technologies in the energy industry.  

businesses-save-big-bucks-with-efficiency

Businesses Save Big Bucks with Efficiency

New energy efficiency measures will save businesses £1.3 billion pounds a year

Saving money is a topic high on the agenda for pretty much every business, regardless of size. And now there’s some good news for those companies looking for new ways to cut costs. New reports suggest that by upgrading their energy efficiency policy, businesses can save a combined £1.3 billion every year.

A new report from think tank Policy Exchange entitled ‘Clean Growth’ highlights the need for ministers to implement a wide range of measures to slash energy use and propel investment opportunities. The proposed Energy Efficiency Delivery Unit will link business rates to energy performance by implementing “a combination of regulations and fiscal incentives.” This move is designed to move away from tenants and incentivise landlords to invest in energy efficiency.

Under this unit, a range of energy saving projects will identify and take advantage of available finance for both public and private sector companies to carve out new avenues for cost-cutting.

 

Major scope for improved energy efficiency

Businesses and public-sector organisations currently spend the equivalent of nearly five per cent of GDP (£22bn) on energy every year. There is major scope for improved efficiency, whereby it represents a smart strategic move with great impact on your business bottom line.

The report also argues for a wider focus when it comes to our energy plans, proposing an extension of the 2015 Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) to cover large public-sector institutions where around £200m of savings is available. Key areas of focus include the NHS, defence and education, all of which have potentially huge cost savings

Under these regulations, businesses would be required to undertake officially approved audits every four years, providing them with recommendations on how to optimise their energy management system. In other words, it’s a powerful avenue for cutting that energy bill and realigning business strategy to put those saved funds to good use as well as potentially saving taxpayers billions of pounds.

With the government still working on a Clean Growth Plan, this provides businesses with a neat interim transition to a smart energy model. Green Investment Group and Centrica both supported the research with the former’s MD emphasising that the blending of expertise with finance and technical solution providers creating new policies will help businesses to “capture the benefits of energy efficiency”.

 

Slashing the energy bill

Proactive measures along with efforts to make energy usage more transparent will help companies to become more resilient as well as create and pursue valuable growth opportunities both now and in the future. A better understanding of business energy costs facilitates improved productivity and operation alignment while freeing up resources for infrastructure investment.

Once companies understand how to establish energy efficiency as part of a wider strategic initiative, they will be able to sustain a competitive advantage, drive costs down and open access to new markets and additional sources of revenue.

It has also been suggested that the private sector focuses on funding energy efficiency projects, with an emphasis on those with longer payback periods.

 

Strategic energy management

The 2014-15 Building Energy Efficiency Survey (BEES) addressed similar issues, identifying savings in the areas of lighting, energy management and controls, and space heating. It is here that businesses must begin their strategic energy management.

The BEES states that businesses can reduce their overall energy demand by 39 per cent, with one-third of this saving related to measures with a payback period of three years or less. By easing the burden of high-energy bills, businesses can maintain a local and international stronghold, taking advantage of the “natural synergy between energy efficiency, productivity and the wider Industrial Strategy.”

The most intelligent companies will also look into projects with a longer payback, as there is plentiful opportunity in this arena. In fact, projects with payback periods of more than three years represent total energy cost savings, carbon savings and consumption savings twice as large as those with less than 3-year payback period. Each business must adapt their own model to take advantage of both the lower hanging fruit and the bigger apples.

cloud-computing

Crossing Over

 

Your partners and competitors alike are making the IT migration of the century. Is it time to follow them… into the Cloud?

 
Enthusiasts rate the development of Cloud computing as 21st century IT’s most significant innovation to date, capable of delivering flexibility, security enhancements and cost savings. Despite those promises, EU organizations have been slower to adopt it than their U.S. counterparts. There are signs that this transatlantic gap is beginning to close, but many on this side of the pond continue to waver. 
 
Is Cloud computing on your IT ‘To Do’ list? We’ve been hearing the term for a decade or more… but, if you’ve never flagged it as ‘urgent’, you’re not alone! While some 80 percent of U.S. companies are pursuing a Cloud strategy, the figure for EU businesses is closer to one-third, and management’s grasp of the subject is correspondingly sketchy.
 

 

That being so, let’s take a look at the Absolute Basics. 

 
No-one is quite sure where the term Cloud computing comes from, but the concept it embodies is simple enough. Who cares if your laptop or phone doesn’t have a built-in spreadsheet, or a video editor? As long as you have an Internet connection, you can run the apps you need on a remote server… or in the Cloud, to use the jargon.
 
 

 

The Server Strikes Back

 
This Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) arrangement is less novel than it might first appear. Throughout the 60s and 70s, computing meant accessing mainframes (smart) from terminals (dumb). The arrival of the PC shifted resources from the computer room to the desktop, but the Internet presented a powerful argument for a return to older client/server models. 
 

 

 

Just think of Google as a SaaS project, and you’ll see what we mean!

 
Of course, Cloud computing in 2017 is a richer and more appealing experience than logging onto a mainframe in 1977. SaaS has a big brother called Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), which enables IT departments to set up entire ‘virtualized’ desktops in the Cloud, so that users can access familiar office resources wherever they happen to be, and whatever device is in front of them. 
 
The Cloud promises solutions to other kinds of IT dilemma, too. We’ll tiptoe past variants like Storage-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service, noting only that the most successful IT paradigms are always the ones that mutate fastest.
 
 

 

*-as-a-Service

 
As far as your IT department is concerned, what matters most in all these *aaS acronyms is the word ‘service’. The Cloud simplifies the operations of software provisioning and maintenance to the point where they disappear. After all, why go to the trouble of buying, installing, updating and virus-checking 200 copies of Microsoft PowerPoint when you can rent them by the hour and deploy them seamlessly via the web? Adopting SaaS and PaaS strategies enables companies to set up computer resources overnight and scale them up or down at a moment’s notice. 
 
In short, Cloud computing has emerged as the natural counterpart to flexible working practices. 
 
 

 

Economies Of Scale

 
This brings us back to that transatlantic divergence we mentioned earlier. Perhaps it’s cultural rather than technical. 
 
Europeans, who have traditionally preferred a stable work environment, tend to express their concerns about the Cloud in terms of security. Isn’t it shortsighted and dangerous to relinquish local control? Won’t our data be vulnerable, out there where everyone can see it?
 
Not according to the CIA. Like other U.S. government bodies, the notoriously secretive Agency has for some years outsourced much of its IT provision to an $800m private-sector Cloud. The decision is counterintuitive, but makes perfect sense. 
 
While enterprise security provision relies on hard-pressed IT managers to keep up with the latest exploits and patches, Cloud providers can afford to employ dedicated teams, to have the latest encryption resources available, and to maintain multiple redundant backups. Your data will likely be safer in the Cloud than on your own premises.
 
 

 

Reaching Out

 
Business analysts are keen on the Cloud, but some of their analyses miss what we believe will turn out to be the most significant Cloud advantage — its contribution to open and accessible working practices. Just as social media has enabled deeper contacts between businesses and their customers, the Cloud encourages new forms of engagement. 
 
Here at Planet 9 Energy, we’re anticipating the arrival of the smart grid… and we think Cloud-enabled infrastructures will make a big difference to our customers. Give us a ring to learn more.  
green-energy

Green Business

 

Intriguing new business opportunities along the smart energy value chain

Last Monday saw the coming together of major industry figures, for the first day of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Future of Energy Summit in London. Even just the first 24 hours provided a glimpse into the business opportunities available in the energy market.

 

Smart capabilities and data analysis

A prime conversation topic was how IT software and data analysis are going to change the rules of the renewables game, offering consumers smarter capabilities and helping businesses to track and manage their energy use.

Blockchain technology is also set to change things up. BusinessGreen describes this as the tech that “creates an incorruptible digital ledger that records, tracks, and executes transactions between parties without the need for external validation.” It is essentially a master spreadsheet that is fully protected and crosschecked with thousands of sources to unlock a whole new level of transparent data for eco-friendly businesses.

 

Renewables trading for small business

Its machine-learning algorithms can be used with both peer-to-peer and peer-to-utility energy, carving out prime opportunity for business energy suppliers. Blockchain also facilitates tamper-proof emissions trading systems and monitors the progress of renewable energy credits to anticipate future demand, using a traceable supply chain.

This would hugely boost consumer trust in utilities, representing a new channel of opportunity for businesses to trade renewable energy certificates (RECs). A system devised by a collective of companies including Nasdaq back in 2016, automatically creates and logs RECs using blockchain, offering an authentic example of how smaller smart energy business can more easily participate in this trade.

 

Going electric

A commitment to developing the infrastructure to support electric vehicles was also discussed. Major companies including Italian firm Enel announced their part in creating an intelligent and detailed charging network in line with ongoing EV development.

Utilities are currently working out how best to profit from the projected immense growth in battery charging. Ideas include sharing revenues with drivers using EVs as storage devices.

 

Decentralisation, step forward

There’s some more good news for SMEs as major utilities are starting to accept decentralisation. How? By shifting their approach and partnering up with smaller companies to take advantage of mass electrification.

The Big Six can no longer dominate the domestic energy supply market as home solar panels, energy storage and district heating networks are revolutionising both the grid and the market to make space for smaller business. It’s early days but the opportunities are there.

Indeed, ownership is changing across the board as another item on the agenda was how the private sector has taken control of our energy transition. Jérôme Pécresse, President and CEO of GE Renewable Energy, told the summit how: “The role of governments has shifted from drivers and decision makers, to the role of facilitators.” He discussed how the governments are responsible for providing political stability while projects are being financed by private investors.

 

The business argument for going green

With decarbonisation, digitisation and decentralisation all set to take hold in the global energy sector within a decade or two, it’s certainly an exciting time for the industry. It is no longer a matter of if there are more sophisticated technologies to deal with the transition, but how businesses can apply this emerging tech to their practices to cut their energy bill, maintain their customer base and keep up with the changing market. Thankfully, the infrastructure and tech are there to help them along the way.

 

 

 

 

mexico-cap-and-trade

Cap’n’Trade

 

Mexico’s cap-and-trade model works with businesses to cut carbon emissions

Mexico has come out on top in the innovation stakes, with a new cap and trade system for dealing with carbon emissions. As a nation that passed the first climate law in the developing world back in 2012, it seems Mexico is becoming somewhat of a poster child for the move away from fossil fuels.

 

Easing into it

The cap and trade system comes from a rocky start, when subsidies for carbon-based fuels were phased out, and consumers were met with a 20 per cent rise in gasoline prices. Chaos ensued as people staged protests and set fire to vehicles, making it apparent that the shift from carbon-based fuels over to renewables must be a gradual one.

From this, the cap-and-trade system was born. The idea? Companies are provided with permits from regulators allowing them to pollute only a certain amount – their “cap”. The cap typically decreases over time, presenting the company with a choice: stop polluting, or buy permits from other companies – their “trade”.

Business decisions

It is inevitable that some businesses will exceed their cap in the early stages, and will decide to buy additional permits on the stock market. Naturally, this is discouraged and misses the point of the system.

There are great cash flow incentives, too. Companies whose emissions sit below their cap can act as independent business energy suppliers by selling their excess allowance on to other companies. MEXICO2, an organisation that exists within the Mexico Stock Exchange, have also developed sophisticated software to help companies get to grips with the logistics of carbon trading.

More than 80 companies have already signed up to simulate permit trading and the federal government will make participation mandatory for all the country’s biggest emitters by the end of 2018. As a nation with a huge amount of polluting industries, it’s a big step.

Mexico has also set a cooperation agreement with California, which has been trading carbon permits with Canada for a number of years. The North America experience has highlighted that polluters want increased transparency – not only set emissions quantities but also a forecast for permit prices.

 

Going all in

Mexico is unafraid to set the bar high with their emissions reductions, committing to a 22 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 under the Paris climate agreement. They have also pledged to generate 50 per cent of their energy from clean sources by 2025.

In a country where oil production is major business, you have to tip your hat to their commitment to reduce oil dependence, with major budget cuts in the dominant, state-run petroleum company Pemex.

Major constitutional reforms have allowed for private investment into electricity, including extraction, storage and commercialisation – this offers even greater opportunities for companies to expand their own energy horizons.

Although there’s still a need for major private investment into the energy sector, the cap-and-trade system off to a flourishing start. It also provides a shining example to other countries, of how to work with businesses to tackle the issue of climate change.

the-on-site-generation-game

The On-Site Generation Game

Why generating your own energy could be a game-changer for your business

The energy sector is undergoing massive change, particularly in the UK. Renewable technologies are rapidly improving, the urgency to end our relationship with fossil fuels is growing, and the old legacy systems and industry practice that once got us by no longer fit the bill.

The price of energy, however, is still one of the top concerns for the end user, especially for businesses who’ve seen energy costs steadily climb up their list of operating expenses. So, what can you do when you need something that’s a bit too steeply priced? DIY IT!

In this case, we mean on-site generation, also referred to as distributed or embedded generation. Examples include rooftop solar panels and wind turbines, often combined with energy storage that stores it up for when it’s neither windy nor sunny. It helps businesses to avoid paying such extortionate energy bills, as well as boosting their businesses green credentials and improving brand equity.

 

How to do DIY energy

Various rig-outs exist such rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) installations and larger PV installations can get you into the on-site generation game, but wind turbines appear to be the increasingly popular choice for businesses who wish to get off the grid.

The number of installations is growing, even with barriers like tricky relationships with building owners, structural issues and finance to overcome. And it’s becoming more accessible, too, as the price of wind installations is falling as turbines become larger and far more efficient.

One example from across the pond shows the scalability of on-site power. At the NRG Energy headquarters in New Jersey, the site’s micro grid includes two horizontal wind turbines along with 617 kilowatts of solar capacity and a solar thermal system. Backup resources include 500 kilowatts in energy storage capacity.

This impressive array enables NRG to use its own resources when it makes more sense – when signals from the local grid tell them demand is high, and therefore prices are too. Better to switch off and fire up your own engines to save money!

 

A side-business of electricity?

You can even go a step further than reducing your energy bill and limiting your risk exposure with on-site generation, by selling some of what you produce to others. Indeed, many self-sufficient businesses choose this contractor model. They purchase, install and maintain the equipment, while leasing the electricity supply to customers, creating a new source of revenue.

 

Storage is the key to the game

Large batteries and more sophisticated forms of energy storage will be required if businesses are to gain independence from the grid. Progress looks promising, with Elon Musk’s Gigafactory and other advancements that we reported in a previous blog post. Tesla has also branched out from using batteries for solar power and partnered with Vestas, the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, to combine their batteries with Vestas’ wind farms.

But it’s not realistic to plan a grid-free life just yet. Utility companies will still need to maintain their pricey infrastructure for customers referring back to the grid for emergency or peak use.

All the conversation surrounding the top suggests a need for a new system that relies less on usage, and more on connectivity and capacity. Perhaps it’s time for utility executives to acknowledge the value chain of distributed energy and on-site generation, and focus more on customer interaction.

Businesses don’t need to wait around for the answer though. Investing in some on-site generation is certainly a smart energy move and a cost-saving opportunity that’s not to be missed.

charge-of-battery-brigade

Charge of the Battery Brigade

Lithium-ion batteries lead the way in new energy management solutions

Our team at Planet9 love a good battery and the lithium-ion types are changing the face of energy as we know it. The first such batteries went on sale just 26 years ago as part of Sony’s CCD-TR1 camcorder, and they have since been used in everything from computers to e-cigarettes. Consumers are hooked and the speed at which batteries are being used in future energy management solutions is fast.

 

EVs in the fast lane

At the front of the battery line, electric vehicles come speeding into play. Nissan’s Sunderland plant has pioneered a technique where traditional cars are being put together on the same production lines as their EV counterparts. Productivity has gone through the roof and this seamless shift from the internal combustion engine to the battery-charged EV makes mass market roll out across the industry far easier. Even though EVs currently make up less than one per cent of the UK’s new-car market, by the 2030s they may be the majority and the lithium-ion battery is at the heart of it all.

The top global manufacturers are going in hard with their capital expenditure with the view to triple capacity by 2020, while forecasts from oil companies include much more EVs than a few years ago. New models offer driving ranges almost comparable to that offered by a full tank of petrol, and experts believe that the cost of owning and driving an EV will soon be comparable to a traditional fuel burner.

 

Battery power for businesses and consumers

But it’s not only with EVs where batteries are the game changer. Creating lithium-ion battery packs on an industrial scale could counteract the effects of intermittent renewable power supplies. Elon Musk recently announced his mission to create the biggest grid system of its type in the world with Tesla’s gigafactory in Nevada – he wants to provide 129 MWh of capacity and enough battery storage whereby the grid never falls again. Earlier this month, Tesla announced plans to sell bonds worth $1.5bn to support the expansion of the gigafactory to crank out 100GWh a year.

Smaller battery packs give consumers the option of independence from the grid or storing the electricity they produce to be sold into the grid at lucrative times. Behind the meter options such as Tesla’s Powerwall domestic battery provide consumers with even more options, while Nissan is currently in talks to put partially used batteries into packs to provide businesses with back-up power and remove the need for diesel generators. Business energy suppliers will also be able to help their customers take advantage of low energy prices. Companies can buy cheap energy and store it up for when there’s a lot of demand on the Grid, thus slashing the energy bill!

 

A battery like no other

Batteries are making their way into our energy future at all levels. However, while adding capacity has driven down unit costs, this brings the new issue of overcapacity with capacity exceeding demand by up to a third. Profits on EV batteries are slim to non-existent but the conglomerates continue to expand to drive prices lower and gain a market stronghold. While the future of EVs is promising, this is still a slightly unsettling strategy.

Yet lithium-ion batteries remain the most competitive battery tech boasting sophisticated knowledge, manufacturability, electrolytes and nanotechnology gained from years of research and development. The battery is durable, safe, cost-effective and lightweight with excellent power density (more storage per kilogram) and durability (more discharge-then-recharge cycles). Refinements are taking place all the time with Elon Musk aiming to create the most energy-dense battery on the market to cut the cost of driving new EVs in half.

 

The potential of stationary storage

Uncertainty remains about just how quickly EVs will dominate and charging remains a major issue although fast-charging stations are cropping up more and more. However, the option for stationary storage is also an attractive one. We still need to find ways to make stationary storage pay and revenue stacking might be it. This is where batteries offer multiple services – for example, one system may both offer power to the grid for short-term frequency regulation and deal with peak demand.

A fine example of stationary storage is the 384,000-cell car battery in a California lot that is used by San Diego Gas & Electric to offer power at times of peak demand. Quick-build modular construction and a near-silent production process cement its viability, with grid-storage projects an effective way to use up surplus capacity in large doses.

UK storage capacity for lithium-ion batteries hit 45 gigawatt-hours in 2016 – the total charged equivalent is enough to provide Britain with an hour and 20 minutes of power. The future for batteries and smart energy looks very bright indeed.