This will be the first of approximately 52 commentaries I will write this year about the business of electrochemical energy storage technology. 2015 was a good year for many businesses that commercialize that technology, despite substantial headwinds that could have led to a much different result. Sales of electrified vehicles continued to advance modestly year over year despite some of the lowest petroleum prices in recent years. Stationary energy storage on the grid and behind-the-meter cautiously emerged from the demonstration project stage to that of legitimate if small scale commercialization, despite low natural gas prices and slowing electricity demand in the United States and much of the developed world. The internet of things continued to proliferate, adding billions of new devices that require remote electric power.
It is a shame that there is no Moore’s Law for energy storage that will double its market and halve its costs every two years. Gone too, perhaps, are expectations of a mythical “tipping point” that will cause electric vehicle sales suddenly to surge and utilities around the world instantly to add batteries to their standard array of power equipment.
But what we do see is steady progress in a number of areas that are going to result in a steady growth of new business opportunities for the industry. The energy density of advanced electrochemical energy storage technologies continues to improve. Manufacturing costs continue to decline. And the novelty (and perceived risk) of the technology is slowly wearing off. Electrochemical energy storage technology continues to eat away, sometime at a frustratingly slow pace, at the various incumbent technologies it is destined to replace. But it is important to remember that the tortoise, not the hare, ultimately won the race.
For those in the business of commercializing advanced electrochemical energy storage technology, 2016 should be a good year, as this slow, steady pace of improvement continues to occur. I look forward to writing about the successes of our members and the successes of our industry in this column over the year ahead. Happy New Year.