NEC snaps up grid-scale battery business

Japanese technology company NEC has bought A123 Energy Storage for $100 million from its parent company, Wanxiang Group of China.

NEC initially made a play for the now-bankrupt grid-scale, lithium-ion battery company in 2013, but was in the end gazumped by Wanxiang, which snapped up the company for $251 million. This week’s announcement by NEC represents a victory of sorts for the company, and marks a giant and deliberate step into the battery storage market.

By acquiring A123, NEC has propelled itself into a global leadership position in the grid-scale battery market, which is increasingly a key sector for PV. Market leaders in this segment include Mitsubishi, Panasonic and Samsung.

NEC has revealed that it plans to ally its information and communications technology (ICT) expertise with its recently acquired battery capability to create NEC Energy Solutions – a storage system integration business that is expected to begin operations in June, providing turnkey storage systems for utility-scale and residential, commercial and industrial applications.

The company is targeting global sales of energy storage systems of around $6 billion by 2020, according to an interview with NEC VP Hideki Niwaya published this week in the Wall Street Journal.