Billionaires Love Energy Storage But Can Energy Storage Make Its Own Billionaire
This year, yet another billionaire took a big bet on energy storage – twice. First, Patrick Soon-Shiong’s company NantEnergy bought zinc-air battery manufacturer Fluidic and earlier this month, he added in Sharp’s SmartStorage division in the US.
Soon-Shiong is treading a well-worn path. Wang Chuanfu, the head of Chinese firm BYD, has seen his company become a major electric vehicle and stationary energy storage manufacturer. Elon Musk, of course, segued Tesla into stationary storage as well. And one of the solar industry’s self-made billionaires, Jifan Gao, has also moved into energy storage.
Billion-dollar companies like Aggrekko, Wartsilla and Total have all completed energy storage acquisitions in recent times.
The opportunity could hardly carry a stronger endorsement. As more territories take a leaf out of California’s book and issue a mandate for energy storage installation, the market will be transformed. California is clearly in the forefront of Soon-Shiong’s mind.
“The acquisition of Sharp’s energy systems business and the SmartStorage brand immediately creates a foothold for NantEnergy in the US, particularly in the important California market,” he said at the time of the deal.
WoodMac this week forecast that energy storage installations could hit 780GW by 2040. Back at the end of last year, one estimate of that figure was as low as 3.8GW. But Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s 2030 predictions are equally spectacular.
Wind, solar, even the ethanol industry, have all created at least one billionaire. The common denominator is scale.
There are a number of candidates in the energy storage sector but the challenge so far has been that successful companies, or promising strugglers, have been snapped up by bigger fish. Unlike solar panels and wind turbines, there is a huge variation in the technologies active in the energy storage market and the applications they might serve.