Long-duration energy storage projects set for growth despite hurdles

Chief Europe Correspondent
Graph of average duration of global energy storage systems
Source: Wood Mackenzie "Long-duration energy storage report 2022" • Calculations are based on various technologies, both long-duration energy storage (LDES) and non-LDES, such as lithium-ion batteries and sodium-ion batteries. It excludes pumped hydro storage.

Interest in long-duration energy storage (LDES) projects is growing around the world, but developers will struggle to scale the technology up cost effectively before 2030.

That’s a primary takeaway from a recent report by consultancy Wood Mackenzie assessing the global LDES industry.

The ability to store renewable energy for long periods of time is becoming increasingly important as the world rapidly scales up variable wind and solar electricity.

As we reported in our two-part series, LDES includes technologies that can store renewable energy from six to 10 hours or more. Novel solutions for thermal, mechanical, chemical and electrochemical LDES are currently in various stages of development.

Notably, LDES excludes lithium-ion batteries, which are the most well-known, affordable and established energy storage technologies. But they’re most effective only for shorter term storage.

Since 2019, LDES projects around the world attracted more than $58 billion in commitments, according to Wood Mackenzie. If all these projects moved forward, they would bring 57 gigawatts of LDES online, three times the global energy storage capacity deployed in 2022.

“Despite this rapid progress, emerging LDES technologies still face an ever-growing list of technical, financial and business barriers to enable them to gain broader deployment, reduce costs and prove economic value,” the report states.

As more LDES projects come online, utilities and power system operators will be able to store energy for longer periods, gradually increasing the overall storage capacity of the entire system, said Kevin Shang, senior research analyst at Wood Mackenzie and lead author of the report.

“The broad mix of potential ‘long-term’ storage solutions makes it difficult to predict any likely winners or losers, but those who can compete at scale with lithium-ion will have the inside track,” Shang said in an email.

Currently, pumped hydro storage, where water is pumped uphill and then released to provide on-demand power, is the only LDES technology deployed on a large-scale and will continue to dominate the market until 2030, the report found.

In the long run, pumped hydro may struggle to expand as the technology contends with permitting challenges and difficulty finding suitable land.