China is set to become the leading energy storage market in the Asia-Pacific region by 2024. That's according to new research from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
China’s cumulative energy storage capacity is projected to skyrocket from 489 megawatts or 843 megawatt-hours in 2017 to 12.5 gigawatts or 32.1 gigawatt-hours in 2024. This represents a 25-fold increase in the installed base.
Policy incentives have been the main drivers behind China’s rapid growth in storage deployments in 2018, already pushing China to become the second-largest market behind South Korea in terms of annual deployments. The market deployed 580 megawatts (1.14 gigawatt-hours), reaching a cumulative market size of 1.07 gigawatts (1.98 gigawatt-hours) last year. Front-of-the-meter (FTM) storage led growth, up fivefold in terms of installed power capacity compared to 2017.
State Grid Corporation of China, a state-owned utility, has deployed 452 megawatt-hours of grid-connected FTM pilot projects, which accounted for 83 percent of FTM market growth nationwide last year. These pilot projects were supported by government research grants.
“Based on current project economics and without policy support, utilities have limited incentive to scale-up investment in FTM storage as part of grid infrastructure,” said Dr. Le Xu, senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie.
This is set to change next year. According to China’s National Energy Administration, the ancillary services market will be transitioning from a basic compensation mechanism to a market integrated with spot energy prices by 2020. That, along with maturity in technology and subsequent cost reductions, are key factors that will contribute to the exponential growth in the nation’s energy storage market through to 2024.
Of storage projects deployed to participate in ancillary services in 2018, 60 percent were deployed as standalone, 14 percent paired with coal plants, and 19 percent were renewables-plus-storage. Utilities led the renewable-plus-storage market growth, deploying 105 megawatt-hours of storage — either paired with solar projects or hybrid solar and wind plants — in Qinghai province to reduce curtailments. There is no business case for solar developers to invest in utility solar-plus-storage, as solar subsidies are being phased out.
Another promising spot in the energy storage market is the behind-the-meter commercial and industrial sector, which reached 513 megawatt-hours last year, up 2.8 times from 2017. C&I projects were developed to save on electricity bills for industrial users in manufacturing-intensive provinces such as Jiangsu and small commercial users in urban centers such as Beijing. However, these industrial users face revenue pressure due to the uncertainty of retail power prices, especially for peak shaving.
“Although China’s energy storage market is still in its infancy, we can expect to see continued strong growth driven by battery cost reduction, policy incentives and power market reform," said Dr. Xu.
According to Wood Mackenzie, by 2024, global cumulative capex investment in the energy storage sector could grow to $71 billion. Of that, China will account for about 14 percent, or just over $10 billion.