NEWS Two-​​factor learning curve published in Nature Energy

RAEL and Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity of Munich team publish:

Energy stor­age deploy­ment and inno­va­tion for the clean energy tran­si­tion” in Nature Energy.  

Access at Nature Energy here.


New Study Find That Energy Stor­age Prices are Falling Faster than Solar PV or Wind Tech­nol­ogy Costs, Out­com­pet­ing Coal and Nat­ural Gas Plants

Berke­ley, CA, July 31, 2017 — Stor­age prices are falling faster than solar PV or wind tech­nolo­gies, accord­ing to a new study pub­lished in Nature Energy. The fall in prices is allow­ing new com­bi­na­tions of solar, wind, and energy stor­age to out­com­pete coal and nat­ural gas plants on cost alone.

A research team from the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia and TU Munich in Ger­many found that R&D invest­ments for energy stor­age projects have been remark­ably effec­tive in bring­ing the cost per kWh of a lithium-​​ion bat­tery down from $10,000/kWh in the early 1990’s to a tra­jec­tory that could reach $100/​kWh next year. The pace of inno­va­tion is staggering.

Ordi­nar­ily, pub­lic research invest­ment and pri­vate ven­ture cap­i­tal money undergo tough scrutiny before money can be spent on research and the results from years of work are not imme­di­ately vis­i­ble. How­ever, this study shows that long-​​term R&D spend­ing played a crit­i­cal fac­tor in achiev­ing cost reduc­tions, and a recent lack of invest­ment for basic and applied research may miss the $100/​kWh tar­get for cost effec­tive renew­able energy projects. Mod­est future research invest­ment from pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors could go a long way to unlock extremely low-​​cost, and low-​​carbon elec­tric­ity from solar, wind, and storage.

As Tesla moves to install a Gigafac­tory in Nevada and the largest lithium-​​ion stor­age facil­ity in the world in south­ern Aus­tralia, new com­bi­na­tions of energy stor­age in terms of size, scale, and chem­istry are emerg­ing quicker than ever.

Tesla’s stor­age projects are not the only exam­ples. Cities like Berlin have already embraced grid-​​scale stor­age. Berlin plans to install a 120 MW flow bat­tery under­ground to sup­port wind and solar efforts at inte­grated prices as low at 15 cents/​kWh, in line with fore­casts made in this paper. Cal­i­for­nia is home to the first energy stor­age man­date on the grid, requir­ing util­i­ties pro­cure 1.325 GW of stor­age by 2020. These inno­v­a­tive poli­cies show­case the range of stor­age options that may ben­e­fit clean energy, from small Pow­er­wall bat­ter­ies in the home to city-​​scale stor­age facil­i­ties pro­vid­ing back-​​up to utility-​​scale wind and solar farms.

There is an impor­tant co-​​evolution of bat­tery devel­op­ments for elec­tric vehi­cle usage, grid-​​scale stor­age that sup­ports solar and wind elec­tric­ity, and other con­sumer appli­ca­tions for new elec­tron­ics. To fore­cast future energy stor­age prices, the researchers com­piled a new dataset look­ing back to prices from the early 1990’s and devel­op­ment of new lithium-​​ion bat­ter­ies through inter­na­tional patent data­bases. The team also looked at how stor­age co-​​evolved with solar and wind inno­va­tions. They found that for stor­age tech­nolo­gies, invest­ment in applied research may actu­ally be a more effec­tive in $/​kWh cost reduc­tion than pure economies of scale mass production.

This past year (2017) the US reached its goal of $1/​W Sun­Shot solar power three years early. How­ever, low-​​cost solar is usable dur­ing the day and expe­ri­ences inter­mit­tency, which causes researchers to ques­tion the reli­a­bil­ity of solar power. That’s why energy stor­age makes a big difference.

The study fol­lows a string of research inves­ti­gat­ing the rela­tion­ship between research fund­ing and deploy­ment of new tech­nolo­gies for solar pan­els and wind tur­bines. The team high­lights the need for more research in emerg­ing stor­age tech­nolo­gies, as there is not a clear win­ner, and a diverse range of options may out­last lithium-​​ion bat­ter­ies. 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 research was funded in part by the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (NSF, 1144885), Karsten Fam­ily Foun­da­tion, and Zaf­fa­roni Fam­ily Foundation.

Kit­tner, N., Lill, F. & Kam­men, D. M. Energy stor­age deploy­ment and inno­va­tion for the clean energy tran­si­tion. Nature. Energy 2, 17125 (2017). Paper and sup­ple­men­tal data are avail­able online at: https://​rael​.berke​ley​.edu/​p​r​o​j​e​c​t​/​i​n​n​o​v​a​t​i​o​n​-​i​n​-​e​n​e​r​g​y​-​s​t​o​r​a​ge/

Cite and access this paper directly from NATURE ENERGY in Vol­ume 2, 17125 (2017), DOI: 10.1038/nenergy.2017.125 | www​.nature​.com/​n​a​t​u​r​e​e​n​e​rgy

Media con­tacts:

Daniel M. Kam­men, Pro­fes­sor of Energy, UC Berke­ley, Chair of the Energy and Resources Group, and Pro­fes­sor in the Gold­man School of Pub­lic Pol­icy; also Sci­ence Envoy for the U.S. State Depart­ment (kammen@​berkeley.​edu, 510–642-1760)

Noah Kit­tner, (nrkittner@​berkeley.​edu, 919–614-8825

Associated Projects:

Browse News

Main Menu

Energy & Resources Group
310 Barrows Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-3050
Phone: (510) 642-1640
Fax: (510) 642-1085


  • Open the Main Menu
  • People at RAEL

  • Open the Main Menu