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One Expert's View On The Near-Term Future Of Energy Storage

"I spend a good deal of time at energy storage conferences, trying to figure out where the various technologies and business models are headed. I thought I had most of the nuances figured out - until I ran into Sam Jaffe at the Energy Storage America conference in Charlotte in April. After a brief discussion, I realized I had some more understanding to do, and was able to arrange a follow-up conversation. I first met Jaffe when he was active at Navigant Research as their main energy storage analyst, and he has since moved on to become Managing Director at Cairn Energy Research Advisors (Cairn ERA). Jaffe’s spent more than 10 years in energy storage as an analyst, consultant, entrepreneur and executive from all ends of the business. So he’s practically been watching this space since before it became relevant.

The power grid’s Swiss Army knife: Storage is a complex area to follow, since batteries are the Swiss Army knives of the energy world: they have multiple applications and you often need to ‘stack’ more than one value proposition in order to make the economics work. To be attractive in the market, you might not need the fork and the toothpick, but at a minimum you’d better have the scissors, the blade, and (above all) the corkscrew. In addition, there are multiple technologies, with some being quite different – such as flow batteries vs lithium ion. Other technologies are characterized by more minor distinctions – for example, the different types of lithium ion batteries (as one example, lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles and for stationary storage possess different chemistries)."

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