China’s energy storage boom falters
(Eco Business, 8 May 2020) Shifting policies and an unstable economy have put energy storage on an unsure footing.
Beside a sprawling solar panel factory in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou stands a drab two-storey building that few people ever enter. Inside, stark rows of batteries store cheap electricity while the city sleeps each night. In the morning, when energy use and prices go up, the batteries release their power to the factory next door, reducing its electricity bill.
When this demonstration project started operating in 2017, it was a proof of concept for energy storage, an industry that was about to receive explicit support from the national government and which seemed sure to grow alongside renewable energy for decades to come.
Two-and-a-half years later, stalling reform, shifting policy and a slowing economy had put the sector in crisis even before the coronavirus pandemic struck. “It’s gotten very difficult to do energy storage,” says Paul Man, general manager of Anxin, an energy storage company, which is part of the Golden Concord energy conglomerate that owns the Suzhou solar panel factory. “If government policy doesn’t change, energy storage won’t be doable in China.”