The cost of lithium-ion battery storage could be on track to fall from $10,000 per kilowatt-hour in the early 1990s to $100/kWh in 2019, a feat that could be held back by steady reductions in research and development spending over the last four decades.
The dramatic cost reduction would be enough to make solar, wind, and storage projects cost-competitive with coal and natural gas on price alone, according to a University of California/TU Munich study published in the journal Nature Energy.
“This result, if confirmed, would indicate that prices for lithium-ion storage systems are dropping faster than PV or wind technologies,” PV Magazine reports. “The achievement of the $100/kWh target, however, may be endangered by a recent lack of investment for basic and applied research,” including a decline in U.S. research and development spending from about 1.2 to 0.8% of GDP over the last 40 years.
The researchers based their assessment on an innovation and deployment model that “explains the recent plunge of battery prices better than both conventional models using economies of scale or a classic experience curve approach,” the industry publication explains. “The scientists concluded that long-term R&D spending and innovation were crucial to cost reductions.”
The study concluded that there’s ample opportunity for research on new storage technologies. “There may be room for a number of different battery chemistries that all provide different services on an evolving grid, some providing voltage regulation and frequency control, and others serving long duration outages and providing back-up for buildings and communities,” the study stated.