Powering Africa Summit 2021: Unlocking the potential of battery storage

AdobeStock 305607306At the Financing and Deploying New Technologies: Battery Storage session of EnergyNet’s Powering Africa Summit 2021, key panellists were joined by a host of industry experts to discuss the potential of energy storage for the African continent

Yann Tanvez, upstream lead - infrastructure West and Central Africa & mini-grids Africa, IFC, said the energy landscape was opening up as battery storage costs were declining and lasting for longer.

“Used in conjunction with renewables, such as solar, they are becoming more commercially viable and are a competitive option for countries where geographies can accommodate them,” he added.

Clare Sierawski, climate change co-lead & regional manager for West Africa, US Trade and Development Agency, said there were clear opportunities battery storage could bring to energy markets on the continent. For instance battery storage technologies could solve the need for peak shifting (as more renewables are integrated), spinning reserves and frequency regulation by bringing them all to energy systems on the continent.

While each participant of the discussion acknowledged the immense potential that battery storage has in terms of meeting the energy deficit and empowering communities, they noted that in many regions there remained key barriers that had to be overcome. Despite interest from the private sector, for example, to invest in storage technology it was being deterred by ineffective regulations. Additionally, in many regions, the knowledge of how to use and properly get commercial value from battery storage systems is simply not there and because of this it is difficult for governments and municipalities to integrate storage into their master plans. This, in turn, makes it very challenging to invest in the technology for a country. To counter these issues, the participants discussed the need for improved communication to stakeholders on the continent, to upgrade the planning and deploy commercially viable models so that funding is no longer hindered. 

Carlo Brovero, CEO, StorEn Technologies, took the opportunity to talk about vanadium flow battery technology, which has both residential and industrial applications. He said, “The vanadium technology has a number of advantages that makes it suitable to the environment of Africa. It is easy to recycle (close to 100%) and this can be done without the need for specialised solutions. Although the cost is slightly higher than lithium batteries (although we are trying to close that gap) in terms of cost per cycle they are 60-70% lower than lithium. This is because they can do around 15,000 full cycles (which will last for about 25 years) whereas lithium can usually manage 2,000-3,000 and, in Africa, sometimes less.

“In terms of developing local content, vanadium is a local mineral, available in several different African countries. With our technology the only key component is the stack, which we will have to manufacture, but the rest can be built by local partners with very little investment on their side. This would increase our local impact via the creation of local jobs.”

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