As power generation resources evolve and diversify, advanced batteries offer unique benefits: they can help utilities, grid operators, and service providers enhance grid flexibility, integrate carbon-free (and often intermittent) generation resources, and accommodate growing electricity demand. The benefits, however, come at a high cost—one that is often difficult to justify in a period of abundant natural gas and smart grid advances. Nevertheless, according to a recent report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice, the market for advanced batteries will roughly double each year over the next five years, and continue growing steadily beyond that. By 2022, the total worldwide capacity of advanced batteries for utility-scale energy storage will reach nearly 16,000 megawatts (MW) – an almost 200-fold increase from 2012 – the study concludes.

“The market opportunity for advanced batteries in the utility sector is inherently tied to two drivers: rising demand for electricity and the increasing penetration of variable renewable energy generation,” says research analyst Brittany Gibson. “But advanced batteries are not the only assets that can provide these services. Utilities and grid operators are not yet convinced that advanced batteries are the only path forward, but many do agree that the current resources will not be sufficient in the long term.”

No silver bullet technology exists for advanced batteries, as each technology brings tradeoffs between a variety of operating characteristics and cost, according to the report. For example, while lithium ion batteries offer safer chemistries and fast response times, flow batteries offer the opportunity to decouple power and energy features. As a result, different batteries may be better suited for different applications; but first, empirical data is necessary to confirm definitive selections.