The real obstacle to integrating storage into the grid

energy storage technology

When it comes to integrating new energy storage technologies with the grid, what’s standing in the way? According to CEO of Energy Storage at GE Renewable Energy Robert Morgan, the main hurdle has more to do with people than hardware.

energy storage technology
Robert Morgan

“The grid is ready to accommodate energy storage technologies today,” Mr Morgan said.

“What is really needed is system operators and interconnection rules to recognise that energy storage both generates electricity and demands electricity — it flows both ways.”

In other words, the base infrastructure already exists; what’s needed most is a change in attitude.

“Control systems and grid software need to be updated but the wires can fundamentally handle energy storage — incumbent operators often have a resistance to change,” Mr Morgan said.

Over his 30-plus year career in global energy markets, Mr Morgan has watched the industry adapt to intensifying climate and regulatory pressures in a slow march towards the future.

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After working for years on the unregulated side of the electricity industry with companies such as Agile Energy, Areva Solar and RES Group, Mr Morgan was recruited into GE in early 2018 to grow the company’s energy storage startup unit into a self-sufficient division within GE Power.

In the lead up to his keynote presentation at the Australian Energy Storage Conference, he said he’s confident that energy storage is an integral part of the sector’s next big step — if only industry and regulatory forces can align to spur the transition.

“Energy storage is a natural progression of the industry as society progresses through phases of fuel efficiency and environmental improvements, and now confronts ever-increasing penetration of renewables,” Mr Morgan said.

“We already have the control systems and software to enable more energy storage, but regulators and politicians need to help push system change.”

In addition to rallying behind these critical system reforms, Mr Morgan emphasised the importance for storage companies to keep abreast of industry trends, which can aid decision-making and make it easier to spot market opportunities.

With regards to current energy storage trends, Mr Morgan spoke enthusiastically about lithium ion batteries and the growing synergy between energy storage and renewables.

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“Right now, the trends in energy storage are twofold. First, electric vehicles are advancing to a scale that makes lithium ion batteries the cheapest and most effective of the proven storage technologies at modest durations — less than six hours,” Mr Morgan said.

“Second, customer demand for shaped energy supply products means that we can offer wind, solar, and gas technologies in combination with energy storage to create a hybrid renewable solution that meets customer needs.”

Mr Morgan also made a point to highlight the ‘3 Ds’ — decarbonisation, digitisation and decentralisation — which he said are creating key opportunities in energy storage.

“The 3 Ds, along with electrification of vehicles and other goods, are driving consumer behaviour and making it a necessity to ramp up volumes of renewables, as well as smaller scale projects and automation,” Mr Morgan said.

“This creates the opportunity for energy storage to enable more consumer choice, e.g. ‘sun and wind when I want it’, and more localised energy system deployment and control.”