Moody's: Why battery storage is bad news for coal, gas generators | RenewEconomy

Moody’s: Why battery storage is bad news for coal, gas generators

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Moody’s expects battery storage to become economically viable within 3 to 5 years, with biggest losers being electricity generators, particularly peaking gas plants.

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International credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service expects battery storage to become economically viable within 3 to 5 years in the US market, and the biggest losers will be electricity generators, particularly peaking gas plants.

In a detailed analysis of the US battery storage market, Moody’s says battery storage is already viable in certain areas, and may become so across the industry within 3-5 years, if the recent fall in battery prices persist.

Moody’s says battery storage costs have already fallen 50 per cent in the last few years, and will likely continue their rapid fall in coming years. Like the cost fall in solar, the cost trajectory for battery storage is also likely to take the industry by surprise.

Moody’s noted that the US Department of Energy predicted a fall in battery prices from $US1,000/kWh in 2012 to a “reference case” price of more than $US600/kWh and a “high technology” case of $US405/kWh in 2015.

But actual market prices have declined faster than even the DoE’s optimistic scenario. It cites the case of Tesla Energy, which is selling battery packs today at $US350/kWh-$US400/kWh and some high-volume customers are buying batteries today at between $US250/kWh-$US350/kWh,

“With Tesla Energy indicating that it expects prices to be as low as $US100/kWh-$US200/kWh by 2020, this expected trend of falling capital costs suggests that battery applications could become economically viable in three to five years,” Moody’s notes.

Practical applications of batteries include peak-shaving, where commercial and industrial customers could satisfy a portion of their peak power demands with a battery that charges at night and is used during peak load hours.

At the grid level, batteries can be used to integrate renewable energy and supplement ancillary services which helps with minute-to-minute grid stability.

Widespread use of batteries will be bad news, or in the terminology of Moody’s – “credit negative” – for merchant generators because it will push down capacity prices and lower energy prices.

Batteries will store wind energy produced at night and/or stabilise hourly variability in solar production. This will offset the need for gas-fired peakers that would otherwise be needed for this purpose.

Battery storage will also help lower the volatility of peak power prices in general, but especially during extreme weather. Moody’s notes that high peak-pricing is a lucrative and important source of margin for merchant generators.

Indeed, in Australia, one quarter of the revenues of merchant generators are gained through just a few hours of peak pricing. But as such hours dwindle or as pricing peaks flatten, merchant profitability will also decline.

There could be some good news, though. In solar-rich markets, such as California (and this would also apply in Australia), battery storage could be used to address the so-called “duck curve” (see graph below) – the big fall in grid demand and pricing caused by the big increase in solar production during the daylight hours.

moody's duck

“Storage can help pull up the duck’s belly and shorten its neck by storing solar energy produced during the day and using it during the evening hours when actual solar production begins to decline,” Moody’s says. “Although this would reduce evening peak prices, it can also help support prices during the day.”

For the grid operators, the use of batteries will reduce the need for certain investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure, which help bring in generation from power plants located far away to meet peak loads.

Moody’s says the reduction in costs (Ergon, in Australia, says battery storage is reducing costs in some areas by one third) and other benefits such as lower on-peak power prices due to peak shaving will result in overall cost savings to the system.

(See this story: Duck season: How solar is affecting value of Australian networks for some Australian duck charts).

This will also reduce the need to shift costs on to consumers not using battery storage to make up for reduced earnings from those with battery storage installed. But it says regulators will need to be careful to monitor excessive cost shifting.

“Commercial and industrial customers that use batteries will pay less by way of demand charges, leading to higher demand charges on other customers,” Moody’s says. Regulators can address this through changes in the tariff structure whenever such cost-shifting becomes material.


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  1. Jacob 5 years ago

    Bade news?

    • Calamity_Jean 5 years ago

      Yes, and in the following paragraph, ” gas-fired leakers”. Article needs proofreading by someone with authority to make corrections.

      • Sylar 5 years ago

        On an unrelated point – grammarly app in chrome is quite useful

    • Calamity_Jean 5 years ago

      Both typos have now been fixed.

  2. Jacob 5 years ago

    I do not think the duck curve would be replicated in the NEM grid of AUS.

    The sun sets in South AUS a bit later than in Vic.

    It would be great if they told us the sunset times in GMT so we can know how many minutes later.

    • Ronald Brakels 5 years ago

      Well, today the sun will set 24 minutes later in Adelaide than in Melbourne.

      But we already see the “duck curve” in Australia, and the line follows the belly of a duck rather than the back. In South Australia, the state with the highest rooftop solar penetration, grid demand was about 1,500 megawatts at 8:30 this morning. It fell to 1,100 megawatts a little past noon, and it will rise to about 1,700 at 8:00 this evening. And it can be seen occurring in all states, although the extent will depend on the weather. So it’s already here and geographical dispersion of solar in the NEM is not going to have much of an effect on it.

      And I will note just in case someone reading this is confused – peak electricity consumption occurs in Australia in the day, we don’t use less electricity in the day than in the evening, we just use electricity from rooftop solar instead of from utility scale generation.

      Update: Corrected noontime megawatt figure by removing a zero.

      • juxx0r 5 years ago

        i think you have an extra zero at noon 🙂

        • Ronald Brakels 5 years ago

          Whoops! Thanks for that. All fixed.

      • Zvyozdochka 5 years ago

        Imagine a HVDC interconnector to open spaces of Western Australia.

        • Ronald Brakels 5 years ago

          Very roughly maybe $3 billion for a two gigawatt line with perhaps 12% losses over 3,400 kilometers from Perth to Melbourne. If its average use is equal to 2 hours at full capacity for 2 hours a day and there is one cent arbitage after transmission losses per kilowatt-hour then it will make 4 billion cents a day and have a payback time of about two years or so. However, I suspect it’s not nearly that simple as no one seems to be seriously considering it as far as I know. On the bright side it would have the option of underwater and/or overland routes.

    • Cooma Doug 5 years ago

      The australian duck curve is already starting to fly

  3. Zvyozdochka 5 years ago

    This makes me smile quietly inside. All the tactics the fossil-fuel business-as-usual cabal have employed are nearly finished.

  4. Clean livin 5 years ago

    I hear Abbott was about to ban daylight saving to screw the solar industry…..

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