Batteries are key to clean energy — and they just got much cheaper

This is a solar cell panel array in Manchester, Vermont, USA. Photo by MarkBuckawicki Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Batteries are critical for our clean energy future. Luckily, their cost has dropped so low, we might be much closer to this future than we previously thought.

In a little less than a year, the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 35 percent, according to a new Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. Cheaper batteries mean we can store more solar and wind power even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing. This is a major boost to renewables, helping them compete with fossil fuel-generated power, even without subsidies in some places, according to the report. Massive solar-plus-storage projects are already being built in places like Florida and California to replace natural gas, and many more are on the way.

The new battery prices are “staggering improvements,” according to Elena Giannakopoulou, who leads the energy economics group at Bloomberg NEF. Previous estimates anticipated this breakthrough moment for batteries to arrive in late 2020, not early 2019.

According to the report, the cost of wind and solar generation is also down sharply — by between 10 to 24 percent since just last year, depending on the technology. These numbers are based on real projects under construction in 46 countries around the world.

The lower battery prices have big implications for electric cars, too. There’s a key cost threshold of about $100 per kilowatt hour, the point at which electric vehicles would be cheap enough to quickly supplant gasoline. At this rate, we’ll reach that in less than five years.

Now that cheap batteries are finally here, we’re well on our way to electric modes of transportation and always-on renewable energy — and not a moment too soon.

What’s driving the plunge? Giannakopoulou cites “technology innovation, economies of scale, stiff price competition and manufacturing experience.” Other storage methods, like pumped hydro, still account for the vast majority of energy storage capacity, but lithium-ion batteries are much more flexible and don’t require specific locations or environmental conditions to work. Like everything in the built environment, lithium-ion batteries also require mining and manufacturing. There’s still a chance that some new exotic battery technology will quickly supplant lithium-ion, but its ubiquity and — now — cheapness will be hard to beat. MORE

Tell Our Politicians: Pollution Can’t be Free


Air pollution over London. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

Climate change is the greatest risk to human health. For younger Canadians to thrive, we need to do everything we can to stop Earth from warming more than 1.5°C. The good news: one of the most important actions we can take is pretty common sense → don’t let pollution be free. It’s time to recognize that pricing pollution is a health intervention.

We call on our politicians to put a high price on carbon, to use the revenue to make other aspects of life healthier and more affordable, and to help Canadians make good money as we transition to a green economy. 😎

Our kids will thank us. SIGN THE PETITION

9 Renewable Energy Highlights of 2018

Image result for Wind farm with solar panels in southern California. 4kodiak / E+ / Getty Images

Despite the Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to prop up coal and undermine renewables—at FERCEPA and through tariffs and the budget process—2018 should instead be remembered for the surge in momentum toward a clean energy economy. Here are nine storylines that caught my attention this past year and help illustrate the unstoppable advancement of renewable energy and other modern grid technologies. MORE