‘We now need ways to store energy, not fuel’

V Nivedita Chennai | Updated on September 28, 2021

A future in renewables calls for a paradigm shift, says KPMG executive Anish De


To transition to a less carbon-intensive economy, policymakers must focus not only on scaling up renewable sources of energy but also newer ways of storing it, says Anish De, Partner and Head, Energy and Natural Resources, KPMG.

While fossil fuels will still dominate, newer technologies can help lower the dependence and boost the renewable sector.

The storage problem

Traditionally, energy generated through crude oil, coal and gas is consumed almost immediately. For renewables, scientists are looking for ways to store the energy produced, as fuel supply is intermittent.


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“We are talking about flipping the paradigm — generating the moment the wind blows or the sun shines, but then storing that energy. So, instead of storing the fuel, we are producing electricity and then storing it. This 180-degree flip is not easy, especially on a global scale,” says De. The need for large-scale storage facilities is a challenge.

The available technologies come with their own drawbacks. Lithium-ion batteries are commonly used but mainly for small-scale needs and the raw materials are limited and expensive. Pump storage, which combines solar, wind and hydro energy, has limited use due to difficulties in implementation.

New tech to the rescue?

De is confident that scientific advancement can solve these problems. “New technologies will come,” he says.

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He cites the example of carbon capture technology, which stores the carbon released when burning fossil fuels. “This way, we can continue using the fossil-fuel-based plants,” he says, while also pointing out that it is currently not cost-effective on a large scale. On the quest to use hydrogen for industrial purposes, he says, “The hope is that by 2030-40 we can get green hydrogen on a large scale.”

Nuclear energy, on the other hand, raises concerns related to safety, public opinion and land acquisition. As for biofuels, they can serve economic and environmental purposes, he says.

Energy equity

What about the pollution caused by mining for rare minerals like cobalt, lithium and manganese that are needed for new-age energy storage? De prefers the middle path. “Carbon dioxide release is the biggest problem... we need to contain it... make some adjustments... Which is the lesser evil? We would have to choose.” The focus must be on recycling these materials to create a circular economy, he adds.

On the way forward to ensure energy security for developing economies, De replies, “Where do we get the energy from? That’s the debate to have.” Developed nations are investing funds to find answers, but the technology needs to be transferred at affordable prices. “It is not an equity debate, but a practical one… The most practical solution is to transfer funds from the rich nations to the poor.”

Published on September 28, 2021

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