New IRENA Tool to Help Estimate Storage Costs

13 June 2018| Articles

Electricity storage systems are playing an increasingly important role in the global energy transformation, and are set to grow exponentially between now and 2030. However, existing storage technologies vary widely and for project developers it can be difficult to measure their relative economic suitability across a range of applications without engaging in a complex and expensive simulation exercise. This can be a significant burden at the early stages of project development or research.

To address this, IRENA has launched a new electricity storage tool that enables users to undertake a rapid, but robust, analysis of the relative economic suitability of 13 different electricity storage technologies across 12 stationary storage applications. By modifying various parameters, users can account for a diverse range of project- and location-specific variables (e.g., from number of daily cycles to local financing costs). The spreadsheet tool builds upon recent IRENA analysis on electricity storage technologies and their current costs and performance.  

In October 2017, IRENA released a report that indicates that economies of scale and technology developments will continue to drive down costs and support the accelerated development and adoption of alternative storage technologies, such as lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, high-temperature sodium-sulphur batteries and so-called “flow” batteries. For instance, the total installed costs for Li-ion batteries for use in stationary applications could decrease 54-61% by 2030 from their 2016 costs, while their lifespan could increase by around 50% and the number of full cycles by as much as 90%.  

These developments open opportunities for stationary electricity storage technologies to add significant flexibility to the electricity system and provide several needed services in a cost-effective manner, notably to support high shares of variable renewable electricity. For example, the 100 MW Tesla battery in South Australia captured 55% of the revenue in the frequency and ancillary services market in its first four months of operation, slashing prices for consumers for these services by 90%, despite only accounting for 2% of capacity in the market.  

The economic assessment of an electricity storage system, however, is heavily dependent on the use-case, service provided, lifetime and performance of the system and is very much influenced by the specific electricity system context in which the system is to be provided. Examining all the possible permutations that arise is a daunting task. This is why IRENA developed the Electricity Storage Cost-of-Service Tool

IRENA Storage costs tool screenshot

The tool is not a substitute for detailed real-time simulations of the technical performance and suitability of different storage technologies for given real-world applications or their financial performance in those roles, but provides a way to rapidly screen a range of technologies to narrow the focus for more detailed analysis. This can significantly reduce barriers in the early stages of project development.  The tool is already being used by power companies, renewable energy research centres, academic institutions, and storage advocacy groups, among others, to identify promising businesses cases for storage, provide technology- and context-specific baseline estimates, and assess renewable energy integration into transmission grids.