Analyst predicts tripling of U.S. market in 2015, hints at future utility woes

Source: Katherine Ling, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 6, 2015

The nascent U.S. energy storage market will “pick up speed” this year, more than tripling the installments from 2014, analyst GTM Research says in a report released today.

There will be 220 megawatts installed in 2015, compared with 62 MW last year, the report says. This dwarfs the 40 percent gains seen between 2014 and 2013, which saw 44 MW of energy storage installed, says the GTM report done in collaboration with the Energy Storage Association.

The market is expected to grow even faster in the next five years as the cost of storage falls and a trend toward making cities more “energy resilient” through microgrids and pairing renewable energy with batteries continues to increase.

In the storage pipeline there are already 260 MW of energy storage projects contracted by Southern California Edison, and electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors Inc. has hinted it will move up its starting date for its battery “gigafactory” to 2016. California regulators have also mandated 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage for the grid by 2022 (E&ENews PM, Nov. 5, 2014).

In four years, GTM Research forecasts the U.S. energy storage market to reach 861 MW annually and be valued at $1.5 billion, more than 10 times its size in 2014.

Almost half of the growth in 2019 will come from storage in residential, commercial, military and industrial buildings — known as “behind the meter” deployment. It’s the pairing of behind-the-meter storage with solar panels that many experts say spells doom for the utilities’ current business model, as consumers decrease electricity and infrastructure payments.

In contrast, 90 percent of deployment in 2014 was “in front of the meter” — mainly resources owned by utilities — and 10 percent was behind-the-meter storage, the report says.

While California made a significant splash in the energy market with its storage mandate, two-thirds of the storage deployment is currently located in the Mid-Atlantic within the region of grid operator PJM Interconnection, according to the report.

Lithium-ion batteries dominate the technology deployment, making up about 70 percent of the energy storage market, the report says.

“The U.S. energy storage market is nascent but we expect it to pick up more speed this year,” Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM Research, said in a statement. “Attractive economics already exist across a broad array of applications, and system costs are in rapid decline. We expect some fits and starts but significant overall growth for the market in 2015.”