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Will the Indian battery market scenario witness a major change? As the power supply in the country continues to be unreliable, the role of batteries has to change from being an emergency back-up solution to a long time power/energy storage solution. With the advent of the summer, as in each previous year, the power supply scenario will only worsen, and the sales of batteries, inverters and solar panels will be at their peak.

Consumers are expecting their inverters to work for long hours and to carry the entire load in their households, factories and shops. Flooded lead-acid batteries have so far played the role of energy storage devices in the country, but they are yet to deliver the customers’ expectation of providing high power storage for long hours with a 3-5 year lifespan. Additionally, many residential, commercial and industrial complexes have started installing rooftop solar PV modules along with inverters and battery storage. With such applications, high demand supply mismatch and high ownership costs of diesel gensets, consumers will feel the need for high power, deep discharge batteries more than they have done in the past. Along with these changes, the price range of lithium-ion batteries has come down considerably over the last 12 months to change the dynamics of the market. It was not long back when Li-ion batteries were costing more than US$1000/kWh. Now some of the global Li-ion battery manufacturers have even reported price points below US$400/kWh for the same technology.

On the other hand, the energy storage market in India is expecting the announcement of an 'Energy Storage Mission' by the government Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) at the RE Invest event in February 2015; which will bring a change in the scenario of storage applications at grid storage, like renewable energy integration and grid ancillary services.

Times of change in the Indian battery energy storage market

An International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) policy workshop at the Energy Storage India event was launched by Dr Upendra Tripathy, MNRE secretary. Image: IESA facebook page.

At the Energy Storage India conference in New Delhi, which concluded in the first week of December, Sushil Kumar Soonee, CEO of Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO), said that both the regulatory and the planning team have to consider the price of load shedding and power disruptions, which the end consumers have to pay. POSOCO is a subsidiary of Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) set up to perform the power management functions of PGCIL. The tool of load shedding will be always a cheaper option than the tool of the ancillary service market. But if we consider the cost which the end consumer pays for the load shedding, energy storage solutions will definitely make a better business case. The regulatory panel in the conference also commented that Indian grid operators are every day handling ramp rates of over 40 MW per minute, which is an incredible effort. Energy storage can help the operators in smoothing this steep rate and can make the grid more secure. Most of the exhibitors and visitors at Energy Storage India showcased and discussed advanced battery technologies like lithium Ion, ultrabattery, flow batteries, sodium batteries and other new technologies.

On the other hand, local battery exhibitions in India, such as PowerOn in January 2015 and the Maharashtra Battery Expo in December, were dominated by the lead-acid industry. It was very refreshing to witness greater participation of VRLA (valve-regulated lead-acid) battery exhibitors, instead of just tubular flooded battery companies, for solar applications of up to 400Ah.

Among hundreds of exhibitors of lead-acid batteries, in one corner there was also a lithium phosphate battery company from China, ready to sell its storage solution for solar and EV applications in India. It is the first instance of a lithium battery manufacturer eyeing to sell its products to the roof-top solar PV market in India.  At a price point of $360/kWh, they may well find a few solar PV customers in the country. Panasonic will be one of the first in the country to start the manufacturing of Li-ion batteries in India, by October 2015. The market will closely monitor the installation and performance of 80,000 sets of Li-ion batteries ordered by Reliance Jio (a telecom company), one of the early movers to install Li-ion batteries to supply power to its telecom towers. This order was distributed among the companies, namely Saft, Coslight, Narada and Panasonic.

Times of change in the Indian battery energy storage market

A panel discusses small scale and distributed generation issues at the IRENA policy workshop, Energy Storage India in December. Image: IESA facebook page.

There were a few companies equipped with hybrid inverters for residential and commercial markets. They claim the inverters can be connected to a diesel generator set power supply, solar PV and mains supply and it can automatically select the best option, prioritizing the renewable energy supply. As the roof top solar market evolves as part of the ‘100GW solar by 2022’ vision of the Power Minister, Piyush Goyal, India will witness introduction of advanced hybrid inverters and PCS solutions by global leaders such as Siemens, Eaton, S&C, ABB and SMA. With Indian Government’s Make in India initiative, most of these companies are considering taking benefits of localisation potential in India to bring down costs of these solutions.

With further reduction in the prices of solar PV and advanced storage technologies, the storage market might witness a big change. Other battery technologies like UltraBattery (a combination of VRLA and ultra-capacitor) and flow batteries are investing time, money and effort to gain a share in the big pie of the over-US$1.3 billion annual battery storage market in India. The market is poised to be unsettled with the drastic reduction of Li-ion battery prices, and the price of US$300 per kWh can be that point of disruption for various industrial and commercial energy storage applications. Apart from cost reductions, improvements in cycle life, charge – discharge rates (c-rate) and deeper cycling capability is also resulting in lower levelised cost of energy delivered from advanced storage technologies. Data collected by IESA indicates trends which can bring down the levelised cost of energy delivered from advanced storage solutions from around 10-15/kWh currently to below around 3/KWh with in the next 5 years, as the market evolves and different technologies benefit from economies of scale.

Any unsafe occurrences with the installations of new battery technologies can hamper their market penetration. Hence, both manufacturers and installers are willing to educate the market about the additional battery management systems and maintenance which are mandatory for the new technologies. This shift in the market dynamics will also open up huge opportunities for battery management systems, hybrid inverter and smart charging appliances companies.

Co-authored by Dr Rahul Walawalkar, founder and executive director of the India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) and head of emerging technologies & markets practice for Customized Energy Solutions.

Tags: competing battery chemistries, cost reduction, localisation potential, economies of scale, load shedding, india, ancillary services