We’ve been hearing big news from the US energy storage company Greensmith all year, and now there is more big news to report. Last week, Greensmith announced that the UK-based global energy company E.ON has joined in its latest round of financing, bringing the total to $18.3 million. With these two industry leaders joining forces, it’s time to close the book on that old story about wind and solar being inadequate and unreliable. Energy storage is here to stay, and thanks to companies like Greensmith, energy storage systems are getting more sophisticated and effective at managing intermittent sources of electricity.
Smart Energy Storage
Greensmith is a facilitator and integrator of energy systems. We’re calling it an industry leader because of this:
Greensmith delivered one-third of the energy storage capacity installed in the United States in 2014. Its GEMS energy storage software platform is currently used by more than 20 customers for multiple applications at 50 different sites, including the single largest battery-based energy storage system deployed globally in 2014, which provides 24×7 frequency regulation services.
The GEMS platform was the topic of Greensmith’s previous announcement this fall. It involved a new layer of energy storage application for the software, enabling system owners to participate in electricity markets with the aim of getting better deals and potentially making some income off of their energy storage investment:
The new functionality provides owners and operators with a control layer for managing these aggregated front-of-the-meter and behind-the-meter energy storage systems, allowing them to integrate them into utility or ISO market communications systems so that they can use these systems to participate in resource adequacy, frequency response and other wholesale energy markets.
Wind, Solar And Energy Storage
Greensmith already has the US company American Electric Power under its financial belt, and the new investment by E.ON brings it full force into the European market. The company has 33 million customers in Europe, Russia, and Turkey, as well as North America.
As a provider of conventional power as well as wind and solar, E.ON is in a tricky position. Until the energy storage market fully penetrates, conventional power sources will still be needed, but they will need some form of support to remain viable. E.ON’s strategy is to create a new company called Uniper to handle the old school technology, while the “future” E.ON leads the vanguard in energy storage and other emerging developments related to clean power. E.ON articulated its new energy position last year:
Customers no longer see themselves exclusively as the recipients of power, gas, and heat service. They are taking greater interest in the source and sustainability of their energy supply. And many are already active as self-generators and energy-efficiency managers. Alongside changing customer needs, policy and regulatory decisions of recent years have also placed an increasing emphasis on renewables, distributed generation, and energy efficiency. As a result of these developments, the traditional energy value chain is fragmenting into an increasing number of discrete market segments. This creates opportunities for new specialized market entrants and makes competition even keener.
Speaking of clean power, while some nuclear energy fans have slotted nuclear power plants into the “clean power” category, apparently E.ON is not so inclined. With some countries (Germany for example) ramping down their nuclear stake, Uniper will take up the “old” E.ON’s nuclear operations as well as its fossil sources, and according to some reports the “new” E.ON plans to ratchet down its stake in Uniper by 2018.
What Does Energy Storage Mean For Natural Gas?
The US ban on crude oil exports has just lifted after a 40-year stint, and fossil companies are most likely hoping that US policy on natural gas exports will also loosen up.
To that end, the natural gas lobby has been trying to make a political case, arguing that the US can save Europe from dependency on Russia for much of its natural gas supply.
Our friends at Forbes disagree, pointing out in great detail that the global gas market doesn’t work that way.
We’re thinking that the emerging energy storage market, as exemplified by the E.ON investment, throws another significant factor into the mix, further undercutting the geopolitical case for ramping up US gas exports.
If you’re thinking along those lines (or not), please share in the comment thread.
Image: via Greensmith.
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