Energy storage-as-a-service: The hottest game in town?

Energy markets are evolving incredibly fast. But while dynamism in the global energy sector is just cause for much optimism, it can also be tricky.  Prices are falling, but how far? And how fast? Rules are changing, but how quickly? And how, exactly?

Back the wrong horse too early, and you may find yourself out-priced by your competitors, who have a better solution. Wait too long and hold off on decisions, and you may miss out on interesting market opportunities while others gain valuable experience.

And if that wasn’t difficult enough, a wide range of ownership and operation models is available on the market. The hottest game in town: Energy-Storage-as-Service – or ESaaS for short. In fact, the list of purveyors of ESaaS has grown so long, that the concept warrants a closer look.

ESaaS isn’t wholly new: The idea that those in need of the many benefits that intelligent battery energy storage can provide would simply contract them rather than invest themselves was prominent already when, or rather because, energy storage was still relatively expensive. As prices continue to drop and storage starts to become an asset class of its own, it’s only natural that it attracts innovative infrastructure investors seeking stable returns and clean energy investments alike.

While this “financing case” or side for/of ESaaS is justified and sure to grow, there’s also the “purely temporary” dimension of Energy-Storage-as-Service that’s received much less attention.

So what exactly is “temporary storage” – and how is it different from the financing-based ESaaS models grabbing the headlines right now?

Most importantly, a rental solution is just that – a rented battery energy storage system. Not a system you lease or one that someone builds, more or less explicitly, for you. It’s a containerized, mobile battery solution that will be brought where you need it. It’s also much more short-term with minimum rental as short as three years entirely feasible – as opposed to the 10- to 15-year commitment that you have to make to a permanent installation today.

Whether it’s regulatory or technological uncertainty, or simply lack of trust. Whether it’s the financing due to the cost of capital or because potential customers don’t understand the asset class – there are many valid reasons to hold off in committing significant financial resources on what may well be a peripheral asset to a potential customer.

That’s why new, more flexible offers are needed to bring batteries into much larger markets. With a rental solution, you can tap into the opportunities, but remain flexible at the same time. Whether it’s to delay (the decision on) grid expansion in weak-grid regions or bridge the time until your generation asset gets a larger/proper connection to the grid you’re feeding into.

Whether it’s to offset grid or connection charges while rules are being changed. Or whether you would simply like to see what batteries can do before you commit, by choosing from a range of predefined solutions fit for your purpose – and tap into huge global experience at the same time. At the same time rental solutions also bring the “classic” ESaaS financing advantages: No need to put a new type of asset on the balance sheet and greater affordability.

Another upside is that you no longer have to trust the promises of a (new) solution provider – who may be swept off this nascent market during the lifetime of your asset. Either they know a thing or two about operating batteries under different use case – and have software capable of ensuring that they can share their asset’s life cycle over two or three customers in ten years – or they don’t. But with rental that’s nothing you need to worry about.

Despite the rapidly expanding markets and specular success stories, batteries are still not nearly being deployed as fast and as widely as they could – and as result energy users everywhere have less reliable and more expensive energy than they should. Rental solutions will hel p change that by offering a flexible approach to operating the energy systems most versatile and flexible grid asset.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.