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Energy storage strategy needed to mitigate power cuts: report

Workers are busy on a product at a Polarium energy-storage facility, where they make energy storage and optimisation solutions. A new report is urging government to look at energy storage solutions to help ease the current electricity crisis. File photo.
Workers are busy on a product at a Polarium energy-storage facility, where they make energy storage and optimisation solutions. A new report is urging government to look at energy storage solutions to help ease the current electricity crisis. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

The government should look into developing plans around the deploying of energy storage to help ease the energy crisis and reduce the need for load-shedding during peak time.

This is according to a new report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) titled “Watts In Store: Explainer on how energy storage can help South Africa’s electricity crisis (Part 1)".

The report found that South Africans had experienced more scheduled power cuts in the first six months of 2023 than in all of 2022 and that energy storage — such as grid batteries and pumped hydro — can help balance electricity supply and demand, improve grid stability, and boost energy providers’ financial returns.

Researchers also identified seven benefits of energy storage “that are particularly important for the constrained South African power system this year”.

“Among those with immediate effect, adding batteries to consumer-located generators can lower demand for Eskom power, while the existing pumped hydro can reduce the need for load-shedding when power consumption is at its peak.

“In the long term, energy storage can also complement intermittent utility-scale renewable energy, optimise the use of congested grids, contribute to a better use of existing power plants, improve public supply of electricity, and could be a cost-effective alternative to immediate grid expansion in some cases.”

Another finding made by the researchers was that while South Africans were already widely and rapidly installing consumer batteries, grid storage located on the electricity grid has received relatively little attention.

“Yet, grid batteries have recently seen rapid growth worldwide, thanks to an 80% drop in costs of lithium-ion batteries since 2013. The main benefit is that they can be deployed much faster and offer more services than other grid storage technologies, such as pumped hydro,” they said.

Commenting on the report was lead author and policy adviser at IISD Richard Halsey. 

“While deployment of batteries at commercial, industrial and residential sites is accelerating, the rollout is happening in an uncoordinated manner, primarily as a self-funded response to worsening load-shedding,” he said.

“South Africa needs national and municipal grid storage strategies, which will provide a positive signal to the energy storage industry that it can safely develop supply chains.”

TimesLIVE


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