We are at the beginning of a system shift that is one of the most important of industrial history, where the declining environmentally affecting fuels will be replaced and where electricity will play a key role. In the emerging new energy landscape, the possibility to store energy is an important prerequisite. The need for energy storage is driven by generally increased electrification and that an increasing share of the energy comes from renewable energy sources that are intermittent. Energy storage encompasses many different areas supported by different physical and chemical principles, delivered in different technical packages adapted to system solutions for different needs.

This report is one of two from Blue Institute that deals with energy storage. This one describes why energy storage technology is a decisive factor for a future sustainable energy supply. The focus is on understanding the markets and the market mechanisms that the technology, services ans investment capital bring about. The transition of the energy system also involves a transition of the input value systems. The more than 100-year-old business model in the power industry, which is built on an constantly growing large-scale and falling electricity prices in a simple, centralized one-way-flow, will have to adapt to the increasing complexity.

Energy storage for the electricity system or electricity grids is usually called EES – Electric Energy Storage. An EES stores energy that has already been generated as electricity and can release it again in a controlled manner at another time.

In practice, the need to store energy ranges from very small practices – microformats and microwatt hours – to large-scale and gigawatt hours. This is especially true of the electrical system. The small needs are in the computers, the system electronics, which control the networks and productions. The big ones are in the main process for energy supply. As energy storages develop, technical platforms can to some extent be divided between small and large.

An example is battery technology where the same chemical principles can be used in a control computer as to increase the quality of the current in the high voltage network. But most of the time it turns out that the specific requirements that are set for energy storage on an electricity grid scale differ. Then there is an openness to new technology dimensions and combinations to meet the requirements at reasonable costs. One of the messages of this study is that energy storage in the electricity infrastructure is a matter of managing complex systems.