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Lithium-ion batteries ‘will be cheapest way to store power by 2050’

Lithium-ion batteries will be the cheapest way to store power by 2050.

That’s the verdict from researchers at Imperial College London, who say the technology suits most storage applications, such as making sure energy grids do not suffer large fluctuations and allowing consumers to manage their bills.

These features are important as the world increasingly relies on intermittent resources.

The study determines the ‘levelised cost of storage’, which refers to the full costs of storing energy including investment, operation and charging cost, as well as technology lifetime, efficiency and performance degradation.

Currently, the cheapest way to store energy is through pumped-storage hydroelectricity, where water is pumped up to a high point and then released through a turbine to harvest the energy when needed.

However, pumped-storage hydroelectricity costs are not expected to significantly decrease in the future, whereas lithium-ion battery costs are forecast to plummet.

The report suggests hydrogen storage and flywheel technologies may become the cheapest techniques for certain niche applications, such as when the stored energy needs to be discharged over a long time period or when it must be discharged very frequently.

Dr Iain Staffell, Senior Author on the paper, said: “We have found that lithium-ion batteries are following in the footsteps of crystalline silicon solar panels.

“First-generation solar cells were high performance but very expensive, so cheaper second and third-generation designs were developed to supersede them. However, sheer economies of scale mean these first-generation panels now cannot be beaten on price.”

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