The centrality of storage to the climate mission
Amit Gudka is Founder of Field, a UK-based energy storage company creating the renewable energy infrastructure and trading model to accelerate us towards net zero. In this column, he explains why he wants to see COP26 recognise the centrality of energy storage to the climate mission and the need for faster funding
COP26 represents a huge opportunity to get the climate agenda on track, if there’s a focus on a clear roadmap of actions to get us to net zero.
The headline points will include getting nations to commit to action that will reduce coal use and methane emissions, as well as establishing the rules for a global carbon market. It’s absolutely critical that we use the next two weeks to make serious headway on these topics, and go beyond simply paying them lip service.
Transitioning to renewable energy requires far more than just generating it. It means overcoming challenges like how we store that energy for when it’s needed, and how we create a more reliable, flexible and green grid. Progress on the renewable energy infrastructure needed to deliver this is nowhere near where it needs to be - and there hasn't been enough focus on the role energy storage will play, despite it being so central to the future success of renewable energy in the UK and globally.
I want to see COP recognise the centrality of energy storage to the climate mission and make detailed, time-bound commitments that will help accelerate its build-out.
For instance, there is a unique opportunity to catch developing countries at a pivotal moment in their transition: now that renewable generation and storage are economically viable, these nations can move straight from coal to renewables in tandem with scaled storage, and skip the intermediate stage of high dependency on gas generation. This is exactly the kind of investment for which developed countries should be looking to mobilise those $100bn of climate finance.
We know that between now and 2050, $1.2 trillion will need to be spent on storage capacity globally, in order to grow it 225 times, from 20GWh to 4,500GWh. The problem is, the infrastructure industry traditionally moves slowly, and there aren’t many companies who can do this effectively, at the scale and speed needed.
This means we need to take another look at how the business of energy infrastructure works and establish innovative ways of financing, building and operating. At Field, for example, we’re raising funds from diverse sources of capital who might not typically invest in energy infrastructure; we’ve built an agile operating model; and we’re combining this with statistical methods and machine learning to forecast demand and prices, optimise how we manage our energy assets and in turn maximise revenue. All that’s working towards turning the renewables transition into a scalable, profitable enterprise that will actually work.
Crucially, this needs to be underpinned by a change of mindset. Now is the time to align capital wealth with planetary health and invite new sources of investment into the transition to net zero. We can generate outsized returns from storage assets, and we’re using this to encourage investment not just from large-scale institutional and ESG investors, but also from VCs, who might not traditionally invest in renewable energy infrastructure.
Tackling the climate crisis requires belief that large systemic changes can be made, with the determination to make them happen fast. I’m really excited about the progress we’re making, and the opportunity to show there's a better way to invest, which redirects capital towards the assets needed to accelerate the renewable transition.