Three challenges facing the current energy storage industry



In recent years, benefiting from the dual drive of market demand and policy orientation, the trend of large-scale application of new energy storage in China has gradually emerged. Any industry or subdivision will go through a period of incubation, growth, and maturity. The current development of the energy storage industry still faces three major challenges, including safety, economy and standardization.

1. Challenge one - safety

Large-scale safety accidents occur frequently in the life cycle of energy storage power stations. According to incomplete statistics, there have been more than 60 global energy storage safety accidents in the past ten years. The global energy storage market will explode in 2021. There will be more and more large-scale energy storage projects, and the scale of individual energy storage projects will become larger and larger, which will also increase the potential safety hazards of energy storage.

Among them, there are two concerns. One is that safety accidents often occur in lithium-ion batteries, including lifepo4 battery, ternary lithium battery, etc. Once they happen, the accident level is usually high and the loss is heavy. The second is that many accidents occurred after the power station was put into operation for a period of time, and the safety issues of the entire life cycle of energy storage have attracted attention.

Energy storage is in a critical period of transition from research and development demonstration to commercialization, and there is an urgent need to establish and improve energy storage technical standards to escort the development of the industry. In fact, energy storage standards involve multiple links such as design, transportation, installation, acceptance, commissioning, operation and maintenance, post-disaster treatment, and battery recycling.

The standards involved in the whole process of energy storage power station construction have not yet been implemented


However, there are still no clear standards for the unified specification of electrochemical energy storage technology, grid-connected dispatching rules, and product testing and certification. Safety standards for energy storage system transportation, installation, commissioning, and operation and maintenance are not yet mature. Evaluation criteria for energy storage fire protection requirements, environmental protection, social and economic benefits, etc. are still blank.

Since the energy storage integrated system is coupled to upstream components, it becomes the only link that can be responsible for the safety of the entire energy storage system product.

In the future, integrators will transition to specialization. For example, they must be familiar with the three upstream core technologies. Therefore, expanding upstream is a major path, but it is difficult for integrators to expand upstream. The upstream links either have high technical barriers, or have obvious scale effects and high entry barriers.

In addition, the upstream competition pattern is stable and will evolve towards market refinement in the future, while leading companies in each market segment already have marginal advantages, protection barriers are difficult to break, and integrators have a long road to specialization.

2. Challenge two - economy

The trading model and regional policies of China's electricity market are not perfect

The profit model of China's electricity market is not yet perfect. From the perspective of the spot market, compared with other countries, China's spot market is dominated by unilateral transactions on the power generation side, and the price signal cannot be transmitted to the user side to form effective incentives and guidance, and the business model has not formed a closed loop.

From the perspective of the medium and long-term trading market, the overall US electricity market trades power generation resources through competitive auctions; the retail market allows consumers to independently choose power suppliers; China's electricity market is dominated by planning and scheduling and bilateral negotiations, and the degree of marketization is relatively low.

The trading model and regional policies of China's electricity market are not perfect


Although some ancillary service policies have been introduced in various places, the transaction types are single and it is difficult to cover the investment cost of energy storage.

In addition, relevant auxiliary service policies vary from city to city, and there is no long-term policy mechanism in some areas, lack of stability, and high investment risks, which to a certain extent restrict the enthusiasm of investors to participate.

High energy storage investment costs lead to low price competition for suppliers

Currently, the construction cost of energy storage power stations is relatively high. The cost of energy storage power station is divided into technical cost and non-technical cost. The high technical cost is mainly because energy storage has not yet been applied in a large scale, and the cost of batteries, PCS, EMS and other equipment is high. The non-technical costs are high, mainly due to the high cost of energy storage power station development, land, connection, grid connection acceptance, and financing.

If there is low-price competition in the market, quality and safety will be ignored. Therefore, due to economic considerations, power generation companies are more inclined to choose low-cost energy storage projects, relatively ignoring performance and safety issues, which will cause low-price competition when transmitted to energy storage suppliers, and even cause bad money to drive out good money.

The market participation and profitability of energy storage power stations are low

At present, the cost of energy storage per unit of electricity is about 0.8 RMB/kWh, while most peak shaving prices are lower than 0.8 RMB/kWh, which is not economical and the enthusiasm for market participation is not high.

According to relevant data, the average equivalent utilization factor of China's current electrochemical energy storage projects is only 12.2%. In some projects, only part of the energy storage units are used, and the average charge and discharge is done twice a month, or even basically not used.

The market participation and profitability of energy storage power stations are low


The current operation and maintenance costs are higher than expected. However, in the actual operation of some power stations, due to the frequent charging and discharging of batteries and the rapid capacity decay, large-scale replacement of batteries is required for half a year after being put into operation.

Insufficient energy storage network construction capacity in the early stage: Many energy storage projects including large-scale energy storage, home energy storage, etc. in the early demonstration stage are tested according to the maximum scale of new energy curtailment in the grid, which amplifies the demand for grid deployment.

In addition, the early energy storage only had the function of charging and discharging, and did not have the ability of network construction such as stable support. At the same time, the scale of the monomer was small, and the contribution to the solution of problems such as peak shaving and electricity curtailment and limited cross-section was low, which limited the scope of application.

3. Challenge three - standardization

The energy storage integrated system is directly responsible for safety. The energy-intensive of battery components in top 10 energy storage lithium battery companies, flexible topological structure, large number of cells and different characteristics are not simply stacked and pieced together, but involve knowledge in multiple fields such as system control, electrical safety, DC side management, equipment optimization and matching, battery health and safety linkage protection management.

The capabilities of many incoming energy storage system integration companies are uneven, and many manufacturers lack experience and capabilities in integrated topology design.

Energy storage integrated system product design is uneven


In addition, the current energy storage industry has not issued authoritative standards, and energy storage projects are still subject to non-standard bidding, providing customized products and services. The energy storage integration design is uneven, and the software and hardware are not compatible, which hinders the healthy development of the energy storage system industry.

4. Conclusion

Under the new power system, energy storage is a key technical means to support the access and consumption of a high proportion of renewable energy, and has unique advantages in improving the flexibility of the power system and ensuring the security and stability of the power grid.

Energy storage is an important application technology for new power systems in the future. In the future, energy storage materials will develop towards the trend of low cost, high energy storage density, high cycle stability, and long-term storage. Energy storage equipment will shift from focusing on the efficiency and cost of individual equipment to the direction of high-quality energy supply and coordination of storage and use to meet differentiated needs.


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