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Smart energy storage and the economy: how will the boom affect the job market?

Posted by: Catherine McLean 23 May 17  | Renewable Energy

The deployment of innovative energy storage systems is fast becoming a global phenomenon and is showing no signs of slowing down. This, in part, is due to the renewable revolution, with storage playing an integral role in facilitating the interconnectedness of the smart grid.

It’s not unexpected; storage technologies are not only safe and reliable, but they’re also cost-effective, providing obvious benefits for utilities, businesses and local communities alike.  

Of the energy storage market boom, Alex Eller, Research Analyst at Navigant Research said: “We’re only seeing the very beginnings of what the energy storage market is going to look like. Important issues surrounding how energy storage participates in electricity markets [haven’t] even begun to take shape in most places. 

Storage technologies

For the time being, pumped hydropower are ruling the roost when it comes to energy storage, occupying approximately 95% of market share globally. Hot on the heels are a plethora of emerging technologies. As renewable projects begin to stabilise, the energy storage market boom will see a number of these methods erupt onto the market in a bid to challenge pumped hydropower for top spot.

 According to a report by SmartestEnergy, the UK’s commercial battery storage capacity is predicted to grow astronomically by 2020, with independent developers accumulating 407MW of capacity compared to 105MW secured by ‘Big 6’ firms. Not only will battery storage help to stabilise the grid, but it will also prove essential in contributing to the low carbon economy.

Many countries are currently exploiting integration opportunities in order to balance the grid further. An example of which is that of the UK, having launched the Industrial Strategy Fund as a means of targeting battery storage, alongside artificial intelligence and self-driving cars. 

In addition to this, it is expected that the commercial and industrial storage sector will increase three-fold over the next five years, playing a significant role in the distributed energy storage market as a result of declining battery prices. With this, comes residential energy storage with substantial growth expected in Germany.

The energy storage market is lucrative, but most notably is that of distributed solar PV & energy storage. Installations across the sector are predicted to exceed $49billion by 2026. More and more companies are utilising blockchain technology as a means of solving complex problems within energy storage, that have arisen with the infrastructure. In doing so, they’re providing greater flexibility, as well as a more competitive market within the utilities space.

Industry heavyweight Siemens have teamed up with LO3 Energy to test energy blockchain on Brooklyn’s microgrid. Why? According to Michael Carson, President of Siemens Digital Grid U.S., energy blockchain screams opportunity. A vision of the future, it brings the potential for real energy efficiencies. The utilisation of blockchain could allow households to really become a part of the energy world, acting as a platform for transactions in real time.

 Not only this, but blockchain will help to build the local economy, providing a sustainable future; neighbours have been testing the blockchain technology in Brooklyn by selling solar energy to each other. 

These innovative technologies could ultimately facilitate complete decentralisation of the energy grid and demand-side response would be the beneficiary. The interconnection of these smart storage solutions will increase energy demand by 3,500 TWh and so the way in which we utilise these systems is imperative in ensuring a clean and consistent energy mix.

Job creation

There’s no doubt that a market boom will benefit the global economy; an increase in energy storage systems and the digitalisation of the grid will create jobs, as well as allowing communities to save money on utility bills through transferring energy locally.

According to the Solar Foundation, the growth of the energy storage market will significantly impact employment, especially when regarding the solar industry. It estimated that 27,000 solar and energy storage roles would be created in the U.S. by 2021 alone.

Right now however, we’re seeing a global skills gap. The digital skills gap alone is said to be costing the UK economy over £63billion a year, combined with the shrinking energy talent pool the cost is be even more significant. These skills will be fundamental to the widespread adoption of energy storage. As an integral part of the smart cities movement, energy storage technologies must be utilised efficiently, as a smart city can only exist when it is able to attract the right talent to continually update the economic infrastructure through innovative processes.

Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, Chairman and CEO of the Internet of Things Talent Consortium believes, "Without the right talent, without helping the talent transform to help do these things, we will never get there. It will take everyone to be part of this to make it work.”

This is ultimately at the hand of the employers; from work environment and company culture, to training and opportunities – a strong employer and talent branding strategy will be crucial to hiring the most skilled and culturally suited employees over years to come.

Aside from blue collar roles working within the construction and installation of energy storage projects, it’s predicted that more data driven roles will become the most highly sought after over the next 5 years: 

  • Automation Specialist
  • Cyber Security Analyst
  • Network Programmer (SDN)
  • Machine Learning Scientist
  • Industrial Network Engineer
  • Digital Anthropologist
  • Platform Developer
  • Business Transformation Practitioner
  • Cloud Architect
  • Data Scientist
  • Urban Innovation/Urban Mechanics

It is suggested that the culprit of the skills gap is age – by encouraging children to embrace the sector and learn skills early on this will inspire them to choose a tech based career path. Google, for instance, have implemented summer schools amongst their vast service offering in order to teach children the art of coding. We are excited to see what the future of energy storage solutions will bring!


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