GM Backs a Third Entrant in Battery Race

GM Backs a Third Entrant in Battery Race

GM recently led a $139 million Series D investment round for Singapore-based SES (formerly Solid Energy Systems) to advance its thin lithium metal anode battery.  It joins the race to get to 500+ Wh/kg with an ability to charge to 80% in 15 minutes, go for 1000+ cycles, and cost under $80/kWh.   GM is the third major automaker to back a battery technology company in order to get a proprietary edge in the convenience and safety of a menu of new EVs.  Ford along with Hyundai and others has invested $26 million in Colorado-based Solid Power which uses a lithium-metal anode and a solid-state electrolyte.  VW has invested a fresh $100 million into San Jose-based QuantumScape with its lithium-free, ceramic separator-based technology.   And of course, Tesla has made a major bet based on its new technology from a Canadian research group.  SES captures the competitive landscape in an interesting graphic below.  

You can read more on the SES announcement here.  

Personal Note:  Fifteen years ago, at all the energy storage conferences, the consensus was that batteries were never going to do better than 180 Wh/kg.  It was almost a given.  That spurred a great deal of interest in fuel cells as an alternate and higher energy-dense way to create a rechargeable power pack.  How things have changed. 

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

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New Horizons in the Relationship Between Ratepayers and the Utility

New Horizons in the Relationship Between Ratepayers and the Utility

If you were ever curious about the new ways utilities may be relating to their customers now and in the future, a great way to get a quick introduction is to watch the video of this outstanding discussion on the topic we did on December 3.  It was probably the most informative MeetUp we have had, and one of the most popular with 46 people attending.  If you missed it, you can view the recording on our YouTube Channel and below.

We had three outstanding speakers.  Dr. Karen Herter started things off by reviewing her experiments on getting amazing demand reductions using clever communications technology and instantaneous information on the changing prices of electricity.  She had done one experiment piggybacking a signal on  the FM broadcast of local Capital Radio.  Another used a small in-home receiver.  But that was a minor part of what she found out.  She had customers use a number of interactive thermostats and pre-cooling settings to see what those customers considered the best combination of features and ease of use.  With the best system there were astonishing cost savings and demand reduction, far more than Time of Day rates had achieved.  She is on loan to the CEC to help them devise the best strategies for applying her work.  The key she indicated was getting a much better database of rates and communication protocols with standardization so that more vendors of energy-saving equipment can rely on that information to control their devices.

Tanya Barham of the Community Energy Lab in Oregon talked about her experience, borne out of various companies she had worked for previously, in finding simple systems to apply AI control to reduce energy use and costs in schools, churches and municipal buildings.  She sees this expanding to become part of the strategy for decarbonizing buildings.  She agreed that the kind of database work Dr. Herter was doing was absolutely essential to provide wider applications of user-based demand reductions.  In her work, she was seeing a two-month payback on investments made in simple software systems and sensors to manage building energy use.  

Ryan Braas of SMUD introduced us to the SMUD Energy Store, an initiative that is showing great results in getting energy-saving devices in the hands of users through an online store.  SMUD is continuing to expand its offerings on the Store site, but one of the most popular features, Ryan said, was the “Instant Rebate”.  While utilities across the country offer rebates to customers purchasing various energy-saving devices, often a great deal of paperwork and wait time is needed to actually get the money—fill out a form, mail it in with a copy of the receipt for the device and a copy of a recent bill to verify one is a customer of the utility, wait for the request to be entered into the system at the utility and 30-60 day later a check arrives in the mail.  With the Energy Store, the rebate is taken immediately and deducted from the price of the device.  The user is already verified as a customer and the proof of purchase is inherent as a part of the process.  So bingo no wait, no extra paperwork.  This is a great example of a utility establishing an entirely new relationship with its customers, one the customers end up valuing highly.  If you are SMUD customer and haven’t visited the Energy Store you should.  Go the the Smud.org site and find it.

The three presentations were followed by a lively Q&A, and more importantly, the audience used the Chat Room function to ask questions and get answers there as well.  This is really becoming a very useful way to inform our cleantech community.  If you haven’t attended one of these monthly sessions, you really should.  We clearly are getting people far from our home territory participating, and that is making it all the better.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

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Hot and Overcast: Why We Need Innovation.

Hot and Overcast: Why We Need Innovation.

In the past week, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) has issued a number of Flex Alerts. Flex Alerts are voluntary calls for consumers to conserve energy. On social media SMUD shared this call. It might seem like renewable energy has made this a new normal, but innovations will lead us out. Sacramento can be part of this innovation.

Why do we have Flex Alerts? The CAISO gives us a clear answer: “A Flex Alert is typically issued in the summer when extremely hot weather pushes up energy demand as it reaches available capacity. This usually happens in the evening hours when solar generation is going offline and consumers are returning home and switching on air conditioners, lights, and appliances.” In short there may not be enough power for the grid. 

This is due to adoption of renewable energy sources which have reduced emissions and improved our quality of life but also don’t produce power 24-7. Utilities and the CAISO model the energy to avoid shortages, you can learn more in CleanStart Associates Smith’s Blog

This should not be the NEW NORMAL. Yes, we will have more flex alerts, especially on hot overcast days BUT continued innovation will overcome this. With new energy storage technology and demand response systems. 

Increased storage will help match energy supply with demand, storing the excess produced by systems like solar and wind to be used later. Demand response is a solution like the Flex Alert. It is changing the energy demanded by a utility consumer behind the meter, to better match the power supply. Future demand response systems hope to do things like temporarily stop Electric Vehicles from charging (even having Electric vehicles discharge as part of storage) or turn off appliances that aren’t needed. Demand Response might only reduce a household’s demand by 100 watts, but over a territory like SMUD’s it adds up. There are over 180,000 households, multiplying 100 watts into 18 Megawatts. (Added Benefit 18 Mwh is ~8,800 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions in California)

New technologies being developed right here in Sacramento can help to overcome this and provide grid resiliency. From Storage like Off The Wall Energy, DAE, Empower Energy, SPIN, and RePurpose to companies working on demand response like Grid Rabbit. CleanStart is committed to building the region into a cleantech hub, help support the innovation that will reduce flex alerts and build the local economy, support CleanStart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.

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GM Backs a Third Entrant in Battery Race

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