Electrical energy storage
per kWh. Now, depending on turbine site conditions, it may be as low as US$0.05 per kWh. Perhaps nothing more clearly underscores the increasing competitiveness of renewables than the example of Jamaica’s last fossil fuel plant – built in 2012 – winning the bid to sell power to the grid at 18 US c/kWh. In comparison, a contemporaneously planned renewable energy plant was selected to supply 33MW of power to the grid at 8.5 US c/kWh.
Reduced cost and price stability have made wind and solar sources very attractive in the Caribbean electricity equation. These resources are also conducive to household-level generation. As a result, a revolution in the business model is under way. Customers are no longer forced to be passive consumers of utility-supplied electricity. They are proudly acquiring the status of ‘prosumers’ – consumers who ‘produce’ their own electricity, sell the excess to the grid, and leverage the grid to fill any shortfall as needed.
Smart grids will certainly make electricity networks more efficient, responsive and stable but they are by no means a panacea. As things stand today, an electricity grid that meets minimum reliability standards cannot be 100 per cent (or even 60 per cent) powered by renewables. Efficient and affordable storage of electrical energy represents the most critical ingredient to a genuine low-carbon industry. Recognising this, the industry is pouring considerable resources and efforts into advancing mechanical, electromechanical, thermochemical and other advanced storage methods.
The World Energy Council, in its World Energy Resources Report of 2016, demonstrated tremendous optimism about the prospects for these storage technologies. The organisation – a UN-accredited global energy body with over 3,000 memberorganisations in more than 90 countries, representing the entire energy spectrum – predicts that competing storage technologies will lead to storage costs plummeting as much as 70 per cent over the next 15 years.
In addition to renewable energy, smart grid, and electrical energy storage, several other exciting and noteworthy technologies are being developed that could change the face of the industry forever. These include the rise of electric cars led by Tesla