Q&A with Energy Storage Expert & Industry CEO Jorg Heinemann

Jorg Heinemann, CEO of EnerVenue
Previously at Accenture, SunPower and Primus Power, Jorg Heinemann now heads up California-based energy storage systems company EnerVenue

When it comes to leveraging clean energy transformation, innovative energy storage solutions are key. Both clean energy and storage play pivotal roles in the realm of pressing environmental concerns, as they enhance grid reliability and foster sustainable economic development.

Jorg Heinemann is the CEO of EnerVenue, a California-based company building energy storage systems based on metal-hydrogen battery technology. Before this, worked for Primus Power and racked up eight years at SunPower following more than 20 years at Accenture, where he was an Executive Partner and practice leader.

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He has led EnerVenue since its founding in 2020. The company builds simple, safe, maintenance-free energy storage for the clean energy revolution. Its grid-scale batteries are based on metal-hydrogen technology that has been used for decades by NASA in aerospace applications like the International Space Station. EnerVenue, backed by US$150m in funding, has deals with large energy providers and utilities such as Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and Pine Gate Renewables.

With decades of energy experience behind him and as he continues to blaze the way forward towards a cleaner energy future, Jorg sits down with Energy Digital and delves into the transformative potential of clean energy and innovative energy storage solutions and the broader significance of clean energy in addressing environmental and grid reliability challenges.

Q. You’ve been involved with clean energy for two decades — as a whole, are you satisfied with the industry’s progress?

Overall, yes. There’s been tremendous growth in renewable energy deployment. Solar is now the lowest cost of energy available, and wind is just behind. Battery storage is also becoming a reality at scale, and I’m optimistic about the innovation pipeline. That said, there’s still a monumental undertaking ahead that requires more policy alignments, market reforms, business models, and investment flows. 

Q. What’s one of the biggest industry misconceptions you’re still coming across?

Lithium-ion as the de-facto solution for all grid-scale storage. While li-ion excels in powering portable devices and EVs, its limitations become apparent in large energy projects. Concerns around fire safety, due to overheating and the difficulty of extinguishing li-ion fires, pose significant risks in bigger installations. Additionally, li-ion’s degradation over time reduces storage capacity, requiring more frequent replacements — which can be cost-prohibitive for grid-scale applications. This opens the door for alternative battery technologies that provide safer and more durable options that better fit a given use case. 

Q. How would you characterise the current policy landscape and regulatory environment for energy storage in the United States and other key markets?

We’ve now reached a point where economic gravity is clearly on the side of renewables. If we had enough time, economic forces propel the world solidly into a true green energy future. Our challenge is time — we need additional policy help to accelerate the energy transition beyond what market forces would do on their own in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

The biggest markets — the United States, China, Australia and the EU — continue to explore ways to best incentivise storage deployments. This has included financial support through tax credits and research initiatives, alongside state-level leadership in the US with storage-friendly renewable portfolio standards. Emerging markets are also increasingly proactive with policy.

One policy to keep an eye on, as the technology around energy storage progresses, is battery sustainability. I expect we’ll see more regulations rolled out around responsible sourcing of raw materials, ensuring safe operations and maintenance practices, and responsibility for end-of-life battery management and recyclability, another challenge for grid-scale li-ion implementation. Another is policy supporting the development of long-duration technologies. We are seeing more momentum in the US — specifically in California — and the UK for policies that incentivise storage exceeding six, eight, or even 10 hours of battery storage. 

Q. How can long-duration energy storage contribute to achieving broader sustainability goals beyond decarbonisation, such as grid resilience and community development?

Long-duration energy storage contributes to broader sustainability goals beyond decarbonisation in several ways. By enabling a higher penetration of renewable energy sources, it enhances grid resilience by providing backup power during outages and extreme weather events, helping ensure all communities can have access to reliable electricity. Additionally, long-duration storage can support the development of microgrids and distributed energy resources, empowering communities to generate and manage their own clean energy supply. This not only promotes energy independence but also creates local job opportunities. Long-duration storage also accelerates the reliable electrification of more remote areas, improving access to modern energy services and supporting community development in these regions.

It's worth noting that ‘long-duration’ probably needs a name change or re-brand. ‘Long and flexible energy storage’ is really what the market needs — batteries that can run a combination of long and short cycles and give customers the ability to adjust their use cases easily over time as regulatory and market situations change. That’s exactly what EnerVenue provides.

Is accurate, longer-term financial analysis a challenge right now with some of the newer energy storage technologies?

Forward-thinking utilities, regulatory agencies, developers, integrators and other energy stakeholders continue to explore and vet an increasingly diverse array of energy storage systems. The most promising of these systems, though, must have the potential to achieve clean energy and financial goals while also underpinning the long-term flexibility, stability and resilience of our energy infrastructure. Before embarking on a new energy storage project — one sure to impact decades of operations and finances — energy stakeholders need a clear-as-day roadmap. Shovels may not hit the ground for months, but understanding the project’s financial journey throughout its lifespan is crucial. Organisations striving for confidence in their decision-making face several hurdles. These include addressing industry knowledge gaps and blind spots when analysing energy storage, distributed energy resources and microgrids at the project level. Additionally, they must gather enough insights to evaluate across differing market perspectives, ranging from customer preferences to grid demands. They must also, of course, thoroughly compare grid-scale battery technologies, such as lithium-ion to metal-hydrogen, to make a decision that can optimise a project’s returns. There are more tools and data available to get this right out of the gate, and it’s critical to do so.

Q. What do you see the future of energy storage looking like? Are there other areas of the industry you’re particularly interested in? 

I believe we are likely underestimating the impact energy storage will have on our future energy supply. Decarbonisation will be a truly transformative process and will require a diverse set of energy storage solutions. There are some truly novel approaches to stationary energy storage being developed right now, from our space-to-Earth metal-hydrogen solution to thermal systems to sodium-ion chemistry and beyond. What’s critical is that energy stakeholders understand the system that works best for their use case, and we’re really starting to see industry acceleration in proven, cost-efficient and durable solutions that are ready to deliver. We’ve all been raised to think of batteries functioning as an energy storage resource that wears out quickly and needs to be carefully managed. At EnerVenue, we change that paradigm, offering energy storage that will last as long as the solar panels it’s paired with, or the structure it’s built into.

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