India is at the cusp of a green energy transition and has set an ambitious target of achieving net zero emissions by 2070. The country is rapidly expanding its renewable energy portfolio and energy storage systems are expected to play a significant role in this effort. A recent study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water suggests that the country requires up to 903 GWh of energy storage capacity to decarbonise its mobility and power sectors by 2030. Moreover, India requires investments amounting to Rs 337 billion to achieve the government’s production-linked incentive scheme target of setting up 50 GWh of lithium-ion cell and battery manufacturing plants.
Energy storage systems absorb excess renewable power when the demand is low to supply power during periods of higher demand, thereby reducing peak demand charges and fluctuations. These technologies are useful across the entire supply chain as they make energy supply more reliable and stable.
Renewable Watch provides an overview of the different energy storage technologies, their challenges and the future outlook…
Energy storage technologies
In 2022, the global energy storage market size was $19,000 million according to a recent report by Acumen Research and Consulting. The market is set to grow at a CAGR of 9 per cent, reaching $48,500 million by 2032. The Asia-Pacific region is expected to be the fastest-growing market for energy storage systems with demand coming from countries such as China, India, Japan and South Korea. As per the report, key players in the market include LG Chem, Samsung SDI, Tesla, ABB, General Electric Company, Saft Groupe, Panasonic Corporation, Hitachi, Toshiba Corporation and BYD Company.
The energy storage market, which is primarily dominated by lithium-ion batteries, is now opening its doors to newer technologies that offer diverse advantages. The wide range of opportunities for utilising energy storage technologies makes it clear that no single energy storage technology can serve as a “one-size-fits-all” solution. Each technology presents certain advantages and limitations, and their applicability differs among various use cases. Ongoing research and development initiatives are now factoring in these critical differences and focusing on technologies that are efficient, low cost and more abundantly available compared to lithium-based storage technologies. Lithium-ion batteries have high energy per unit mass and perform well in most consumer electronics due to their long life, easy maintenance and cost effectiveness. However, there are certain safety issues associated with these batteries, especially with regard to overheating and sensitivity to high temperatures. Their performance also declines with time. As a result, new materials are being explored for developing batteries and other forms of energy storage.
Redox flow batteries are solid form batteries. They are capable of storing power from the grid in liquid electrolyte solutions using oxidation and electrochemical reductions. These are more versatile in terms of applicability as compared to lithium batteries. Vanadium redox flow battery technology is effective in charging portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets and power banks. As per the Department of Science and Technology, an iron electrolyte-based redox flow battery is being explored as it possesses enough capacity to power households across rural India. Nickel-metal hydride batteries, which are currently being utilised in heavy electric vehicles such as e-buses, have demonstrated applicability in medical instruments and electronics such as computers. However, these batteries are costly and sensitive to high temperatures.
Ultra-capacitors are also an emerging energy storage technology. They store power in a polarised liquid and can be utilised in applications in the automobile sector. These can work well as supplementary energy storage systems in electric vehicles due to their ability to assist electric cars in balancing the load as well as recovering braking energy. Further, graphene is emerging as a potential raw material in the development of supercapacitors. Other potential solutions being explored for energy storage include sodium, lithium-sulphur batteries, hybrid-ion capacitors, Na-ion batteries and thermoelectric energy conversion. Storage using flywheels is also being considered. Apart from this, nanocomposite systems as active electrode materials for supercapacitors and covalent organic frameworks, which are used for developing lightweight batteries, are being explored. Green hydrogen is rapidly gaining traction as a means of energy storage in India.
Lithium in India
In February 2023, the Geological Survey of India discovered and reported the presence of significant lithium reserves, roughly 5.9 million tonnes, in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir. The discovery makes India the world’s seventh-largest holder of lithium reserves. At present, Bolivia has the maximum lithium reserves in the world, followed by Argentina, the US, Chile, Australia and China. India im-ports its lithium from China, the US and Hong Kong.
The lithium reserves discovered in Jammu and Kashmir are not early-stage finds and fall under the G3 level classification of the United Nations Framework Classification. This classification considers three dimensions while evaluating mineral reserves – geological, economic and feasibility factors. It classifies reserves into four broad categories depending on the stage in which they are discovered. These are G1 (detailed exploration), G2 (general exploration), G3 (prospecting) and G4 (reconnaissance).
According to media reports, the government plans to invite bids for the auction of the newly discovered lithium reserves around the third quarter of 2023. The discovery of these reserves and their consequent auctions is a significant advantage at this stage of establishing India’s energy storage sector and battery manufacturing setup. This will benefit industries such as household gadgets, electric vehicles and utility-scale renewable power plants. However, as per reports, the auctions are likely to come with a mandate that the domestically procured lithium can only be refined in India. Currently, India does not have an established facility for refining lithium. In contrast, China controls over 75 per cent of the world’s lithium refining. Thus, utilising the new found reserves in Jammu and Kashmir would require the timely establishment of a lithium refining facility in the country.
The energy storage segment is expected to play a significant role in India’s journey to net zero in the coming decades. While the outlook for the energy storage sector looks positive, there are still several challenges facing the sector. To begin with, exploration and research and development of advanced energy storage technologies require a high initial cost of investment, which deters several potential investors from establishing a robust energy storage market in India.
In response to a recent query in the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Science and Technology Jitendra Singh stated that a significant challenge faced by researchers investigating battery storage technologies in India is sourcing raw materials, many of which are rare earth minerals not abundantly available in the country. To address this issue, the Indian government is planning to provide viability gap funding to promote the development of 4,000 MWh of battery storage systems, as announced by the minister of finance, Nirmala Sitharaman, in the Budget.
However, safety concerns continue to hamper growth in the segment due to a lack of confidence in these technologies among producers, investors and potential consumers. Environmental concerns are also a crucial consideration as storage systems and batteries can have a significant impact on the environment, not just during disposal but also during extraction and mining. Furthermore, despite tremendous and growing demand for energy storage technologies in the Indian market, the domestic manufacturing set-up is not well established and a majority of the demand is met through imports. These imports cater to the entire supply chain of an energy storage technology, from raw materials to finishing components. The lack of long duration batteries, standardisation and timely degradation, and limited energy density of existing batteries are other impediments to the market’s growth. A well-defined market structure for energy storage technologies has not been established in the country, and the sector remains highly dependent on the policy support provided by the government.
Thus, an analysis of local experiences, insights and challenges may be crucial to establish effective policy and regulatory mechanisms. Moreover, back-end support in terms of cybersecurity, communication and transmission software, and grid upgradation will be essential for a resilient and reliable energy storage network going forward.
In the coming years, as these technologies become established in the market, the need to develop new transmission infrastructure and plants may be significantly reduced or eliminated, thereby reducing both economic and environmental costs. Given the key role energy storage can play in meeting the challenge of intermittency of green energy, the sector should grow in tandem with the overall renewable energy segment in India to enable smoother integration of renewables in the country in the coming years.
As per the International Energy Agency’s India Energy Outlook 2021, India may establish 140-200 GW of battery storage capacity, the largest for any country, by 2040. Ongoing developments such as the rise in renewable energy deployment, a shift towards decentralised power systems, greater deployment of hybrid energy systems, and the growing need for grid stability and energy security are likely to provide a huge impetus to the development of energy storage technologies in India. In the coming years, the sector can expect a rise in investments, with a focus on not only lithium but also other emerging technologies such as redox flow batteries, supercapacitors and hydrogen. Creating an atmosphere for building a robust domestic manufacturing setup will also be crucial. Moreover, a shift towards the exploration of less costly and abundantly available components across the energy storage supply chain will go a long way in making India self-sufficient and secure in its energy sector.
By Kasvi Singh