Storage is one of the challenges in the energy transition. Balki Iyer, chief commercial officer of Eos Energy Storage, tells us how Eos’s zinc batteries are “work horses” that are fully recyclable and provide energy storage in any climate.
Is storage the next frontier in the energy transition?
Storage is not the next frontier: it's the current frontier. If we want to have a clean grid with more wind and more solar the challenge is that these renewable energy sources are intermittent.
That is why storage is a massive enabler: energy can be saved for when it is needed. And the appetite for green energy is not short-lived. In the US, about 20% of electricity generation came from renewables in 2020, and globally it is projected to reach 85% by 2050.
So what is the greatest challenge in scaling up energy storage based on zinc batteries?
The biggest thing that drives everybody is climate change. But how do we use that to persuade people to make the decision today to enable renewables and storage faster? The challenge is how do we make people understand that this is a technology that is here for the long haul, because today we are competing with lithium-ion technology which has more than 90% of the market share.
Once people understand our technology, they comprehend why it’s a tool to solve crucial challenges and enable the energy transition.
People always resist change. They will find good reasons to tell you why we should not change, but it is important to keep pushing. It is frustrating sometimes, but if you start empathising and putting yourself in other people’s shoes, it gets easier. For us that means we have to get out and talk to people about how this technology works, and why it can make a massive difference to issues that they are struggling with.
The energy industry is highly regulated, so buying decisions are extremely process-governed. We are still doing a lot of consultative selling but once people understand our technology, they comprehend why it’s a tool to solve crucial challenges and enable the energy transition.
Environmental sustainability is also a challenge for battery manufacturers. How have you managed it at Eos?
Our storage solutions have always been built with our carbon footprint in mind, and that is an important part of our strategy. Our batteries are made with a zinc and bromide solution – simple commodities that we can source anywhere we manufacture.
These are all things that we thought about in terms of using no rare earth materials, no conflict minerals and no toxic materials. Our materials were all designed with the circular economy in mind, and they are all fully recyclable.
Our batteries are work horses that can perform in harsh conditions and keep charging and discharging daily.
We have also chosen our materials to make sure there is absolutely no combustion or any sort of thermal runaway in the batteries. This is important, because one of the biggest challenges for storage is that solar and green plants are often located in remote areas, which means you need to bring in big heating and cooling systems for other types of batteries. Just think about the amount of water and amount of electricity needed to keep these going.
Our batteries have a low carbon footprint from the start, but also a low carbon footprint from an operating perspective. They are work horses that can perform in harsh conditions and keep charging and discharging daily.
Your target market are utilities, and commercial and industrial (C&I) companies. What does the use case look like for them?
Storage is a crucial innovation for the next stage of the energy system. It is something that solves the problems I’ve seen during my 20-year career in energy. Our product was designed with these challenges in mind: we provide a sustainable, long-duration system that is built on simple, available components like 20ft shipping containers and commodity materials.
Our product is versatile, able to work both behind-the-meter on a C&I scale and on large-scale utility projects. Our flexibility allows us to support the energy transition at multiple levels, solving problems for customers both big and small. Utilities continue to invest in storage as they upgrade their energy infrastructure and deploy more renewables, and our system fills that need, especially as the rise in renewables demands long-duration solutions. C&I businesses are embracing storage because their ability to cut costs is dependent on their ability to isolate from the grid when they need to, and an important element of that is storage.
Our use cases are about how to pair storage with solar and how to put them together as a package in a way that does not require a massive amount of metal on the ground. Zinc is a very clear use case for longer duration because batteries discharge anywhere between three to 12 hours, and they are specifically designed so that there are absolutely no fire issues.
Fast decision-making and rapid information-sharing will allow the next generation to push changes quickly.
As an entrepreneur, where do you look for inspiration?
I take a lot of inspiration from the younger generation – my daughter is an incredible inspiration for me. She is 14 years old and is my Greta Thunberg. I think this generation sees things and they take action right away – they don't dwell on them for a long time.
This is the future, with the way knowledge is becoming more democratised. It is all social media-driven – there is no tribal knowledge anymore. We can access information instantly, and we can use it to make an impact. Fast decision-making and rapid information-sharing will allow the next generation to push changes quickly, allowing for the speed needed to tackle the challenges of climate change.