Long-duration energy storage (LDES) capacity to grow 400 times by 2040


The growing role of variable generation resources in the power grid has led to the perception, with significant analytic basis, that there will ultimately be a need to move beyond storage deployments with 4 hours of duration, currently dominated by lithium-ion batteries. This perception has resulted in calls for the use of long-duration energy storage, recognizing the potential for net load peaks that may extend to 8 or more hours under various scenarios of storage and renewable energy deployment.

Executives from 25 energy and technology companies launched the LDES Council during the United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland. The group aims to educate companies, governments and utilities on long duration energy storage (LDES) technologies and encourage policies to support mass deployment of long-duration storage, generally defined as energy storage systems lasting at least four hours. The technology will be crucial to a decarbonized grid in order to store and dispatch energy at times when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

The Long Duration Energy Storage (LDES) Council & McKinsey & Company released a report titled: Net-zero power – long duration energy storage for a renewable grid.
LDES Council and McKinsey claim that by 2040 deployments of long-duration energy storage systems should be scaled up approximately 400 times present day levels to build a worldwide cost-optimal net-zero energy system, In order to make LDES economically viable, the report finds that LDES costs must decrease by 60%. That would require a total investment of between $1.5 trillion and $3 trillion around the world between 2022 and 2040, which the report says is equivalent to the amount spent on transmission and distribution networks every two to four years. Widespread deployment of LDES could provide up to 140 TWh of energy capacity by 2040, which would store 10% of all electricity consumed worldwide in a net-zero energy system. That would result in savings of 1.5 to 2.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent, 10 to 15% of today’s power sector emissions, the report said.

Furthermore, the report prepared by the LDES Council in collaboration with McKinsey & Company says that LDES deployment could “accelerate rapidly in the next few years,” especially as countries continue to expand renewable energy. Once renewables reach a 60 to 70% market share of bulk power systems, the report found, LDES will be catalyzed “as the lowest-cost flexibility solution.” However, before that deployment can take place, technology costs need to drop significantly, in line with the cost reductions in other renewable technologies spurred by more research and market knowledge. That’s a finding widely shared by energy experts; a in Nature Energy (NATURE ENERGY | VOL 6 | MAY 2021 | 506–516 | www.nature.com/natureenergy) found that the energy capacity cost for an LDES solution would have to drop to $10 per kWh to fully displace nuclear power and would have to get to $1 per kWh to displace natural gas power plants with carbon capture and sequestration.

However, the current momentum behind the industry and the clear role for LDES defined in the report means there is reason to think the lofty deployment goals could be achieved. This is a huge market and even if the penetration in terms of percentages is relatively low, it’s a really big and meaningful business with a bright future.