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Transformative change often requires major societal shifts to reach and cross the proverbial tipping point. The transition to renewable power is no exception, where the occasional installation of rooftop solar systems and a few hybrid cars buzzing through the neighborhood will not be enough to propel a widespread conversion.
There are signs that such large-sector movement is underway. A recent study by Boulder, Colo.-based Pike Research projects huge growth in the commercial building energy-storage market.
As obscure as it may seem, commercial building energy storage is a strong indicator of energy-use patterns on the wholesale level. Buildings are some of the biggest energy users. Changes in this market reflect several trends that speak to the shifting landscape of modern energy consumption. These trends include increased emphasis on energy efficiency in commercial buildings, the deployment of smart grid technology, the expansion of renewable power, and the adoption of demand management programs.
According to the report, “Energy Storage in Commercial Buildings,” the convergence of all these factors has resulted in a promising future for this sector. The report projects the capacity for commercial building energy-storage systems to expand fivefold in the next decade, from 900 megawatt-hours (MWh) in 2013 to 5,000 MWh in 2022. On the business side, it projects revenue in this market to nearly double, from $3.9 billion to more than $7.5 billion in the same time frame.
The Pike report divides the market into three distinct technologies—uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems, electrical energy-storage systems and thermal energy-storage systems—with the UPS market being the most mature and holding the greatest potential. That market alone is estimated to generate $3.7 billion in global sales this year.
Pike Research asserts that the most powerful driving force behind this trend will be the regulatory environment. More specifically, the biggest incentive will be utility rate structures that allow building owners to save money by storing cheaper power during off-peak hours and using it later, when demand and prices are at their highest. Areas where these types of rate structures are in place will see the most growth in the market. The falling costs of the technology will also encourage more commercial building owners to incorporate storage technology.