Daily on Energy: Startup claims breakthrough on holy grail battery technology

·11 min read

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POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH: A four-year old startup company is claiming a breakthrough for long-duration, grid-scale energy storage that could help fulfill the technology’s promise to be the “holy grail” tool to decarbonize the nation’s power system.

Today, Form Energy, Inc. unveiled the details of its new technology: an iron-air battery capable of discharging power continuously for more than six days. That would help solve renewable energy’s most persistent problem: using it when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing.

The company, backed by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate investment fund whose investors include Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, is promising its batteries could be commercialized by 2025.

The Wall Street Journal has much more on the development, including an interview with Form Energy’s CEO Mateo Jaramillo, who developed Tesla’s Powerwall battery.

Solving a key problem: Alex Fitzsimmons, senior director of renewable energy and energy storage at conservative group ClearPath, told me that Form Energy is one of many companies working on advanced battery chemistries that can cost effectively store energy for multiple days at scale.

Lithium-ion batteries, the primary source of new energy storage technology deployed on the grid in the U.S., can only provide shorter duration storage. These are also used to power electric cars, which Form’s battery is too heavy to do.

But unlike today's batteries, Form’s iron-air battery can help keep the lights on during multiday power outages. It also uses one of the most abundant minerals on Earth, iron, so it can reduce U.S. dependence on critical mineral supply chains controlled mostly by China, Fitzsimmons said.

“Long-duraton grid-scale storage is vital for strengthening grid reliability, improvIng energy security, and reducing emissions,” said Fitzsimmons, who was deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency at the Energy Department in the Trump administration, where he helped launch the agency’s “Energy Storage Grand Challenge.”

“For the U.S. to be the world leader in energy storage, private sector innovation is key,” he added. “The U.S. needs to innovate faster than adversaries can copy.”

Lots of shapes and sizes: Iron-air is a battery chemistry that has been around for years but never been truly commercialized. Form Energy received a DOE grant in 2018 for an advanced battery chemistry, considering a number of options before settling on iron-air.

Long-duration storage can come in multiple shapes and sizes. The number one source today is pumped storage, America’s oldest and original form. Other companies are looking to market different battery configurations, such as solid-state designs or compressed air.

Why multiday storage matters: A breakthrough on these technologies could enable the decarbonization of the grid. Experts say a combination of wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, and other clean energy sources mixed with short-duration lithium-ion batteries can generate 80% of electricity carbon-free. But the final 20% will require lowering the cost of other technologies such as multiday storage and carbon capture.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm just this month unveiled a new goal to reduce the cost of grid-scale, long duration energy storage by 90% within the decade.

Welcome to Daily on Energy, written by Washington Examiner Energy and Environment Writer Josh Siegel (@SiegelScribe). Email jsiegel@washingtonexaminer.com or for tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list.

EMBATTLED PUBLIC LANDS NOMINEE HEADED TO SENATE FLOOR: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced President Joe Biden’s embattled nominee Tracy Stone-Manning this morning to head the Bureau of Land Management after centrist Democratic chairman Joe Manchin of West Virginia endorsed her.

Manchin’s vote for Stone-Manning ensured the controversial nominee could advance the committee on a deadlocked 10-10 vote, since all panel Republicans opposed her. It came after an emotional debate of her nomination that lasted nearly two hours.

Republican senators have accused Stone-Manning of having a past affiliation with an "ecoterrorist" organization and deceiving the committee regarding a three-decade-old “tree spiking” criminal case.

“It is hard to imagine a nominee more unqualified than Tracy-Stone Manning,” said Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, top Republican of the Energy Committee. “Her actions and her lies should cost her this nomination.”

Barrasso and other Republicans argue Stone-Manning is not forthcoming about the incident, in which she helped send a threatening letter to authorities informing them of the "spiking."

Manchin said he has been unable to find evidence that shows Stone-Manning “was an ecoterrorist, spiked trees, or lied to the committee.”

He called her a “very well qualified problem solver” who has “brought people together.”

What now: The opposition from all committee Republicans signals a tough vote on the Senate floor, although there are no signs any Democrat will oppose her.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to move forward with Stone-Manning’s nomination.

"We need someone like Ms. Stone-Manning to manage our public lands: A staunch advocate for conservation but also an honest broker,” Schumer said on the floor after the committee vote.

US AND GERMANY VOW TO PROTECT UKRAINE WITH NS2 DEAL: As part of the deal made official yesterday enabling the finishing of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the two sides will ensure Ukraine continues to receive roughly $3 billion in annual transit fees for natural gas Russia pays under an agreement with Kyiv that expires in 2024.

Germany agreed to appoint a special envoy to help Ukraine negotiate an extension to that agreement, a State Department official told reporters.

The State Department official said the U.S. and Germany are committing to hold Russia accountable, including with sanctions, if it elects to "use energy as a weapon and commits aggressive acts against Ukraine."

The official did not specify what would constitute punishable behavior.

Germany and the U.S. also agreed to invest $1 billion in a "green fund" to help Ukraine reduce its dependence on Russian gas by promoting the use of renewables, facilitating the development of hydrogen, boosting energy efficiency, and accelerating a transition from coal. Berlin is providing an initial donation to the fund of at least $175 million.

BUT UKRAINE AND POLAND AREN’T HAPPY: Biden's plan to mitigate the geopolitical harm done by Nord Stream 2 drew condemnation from Poland and Ukraine, as officials in both countries protested their exclusion from U.S. negotiations with Germany about the controversial energy project, the Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke reports.

“Unfortunately, the hitherto proposals to cover the resulting security deficit cannot be considered sufficient to effectively limit the threats created by NS2,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau in a joint statement yesterday. “We call on the United States and Germany to adequately address the security crisis in our region, that Russia is the only beneficiary to.”

The new pipeline could give Russian President Vladimir Putin the option of cutting off energy flows through Ukraine without disrupting natural gas supplies to Germany.

U.S. officials justified that acquiescence, arguing the pipeline is too near to completion to be blocked, but that argument has failed to satisfy Russia hawks in Eastern Europe and on Capitol Hill.

DEMOCRATS ARE PROTESTING TOO: Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine told reporters yesterday he was “not happy" about the Nord Stream 2 deal. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin called allowing Russia to finish the pipeline a “mistake.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, echoed the Biden administration’s assessment the pipeline’s completion could not be blocked

“The concessions Biden won are real,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “Perhaps most important is the plan to integrate Ukraine with the EU electric grid. This will drive Putin CRAZY. It helps break Ukraine of dependence on Russian energy.”

GOP BLOCKS SENATE INFRASTRUCTURE BILL, BUT EYES REDO: Senate Republicans blocked a $1 trillion infrastructure bill but are eyeing a revote next week that would allow more time to resolve outstanding differences, the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio reports.

In a statement, 22 senators -- 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats -- said they “are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America’s infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days.”

“We’re voting 'no' today because we're not ready,” Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, told reporters. “But we're saying we do want to take up this bill as soon as we are, and we think that'll be Monday.”

The bipartisan agreement is strongly favored by Biden and is meant to serve as a springboard for Democrats to find agreement on a much larger spending package that would fund social programs and climate mitigation.

The bipartisan measure includes nearly $580 million in new spending on a broad array of traditional infrastructure that includes roads and bridges as well as mass transit, water pipes, airports, ports, electric vehicle chargers, and electric buses.

MEANWHILE, BIDEN IS OPTIMISTIC: Biden said he is optimistic Republican support for his $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure will come together.

"I come from a tradition in the Senate that you shake your hand, you make a deal,” Biden said during a CNN town hall in Ohio last night. "I think it's going to get done," he added.

Biden praised Portman, the lead GOP negotiator working to secure the 10 Republican votes needed for the bill to move through the evenly divided Senate.

Asked whether Democrats should abandon bipartisanship as many progressives favor, Biden demurred.

"I may be the wrong guy to talk to," Biden said, adding he achieved much by working across the aisle during his time in the Senate and as vice president.

“I was able to get an awful lot of compromises put together to do really good things, to change things. And I still believe that’s possible,” he said.

BERNIE SANDERS TOUTS CLIMATE MEASURES IN BUDGET DEAL: Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont yesterday outlined his climate policy priorities in Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget resolution that he will help lead, in a Facebook Live conversation with Rep. Ro Khanna of California.

Sanders touted the package’s inclusion of a clean electricity standard (which he called a “renewable energy standard” for some reason) that would tell electric companies in a very short period they will have to transform generation away from coal and natural gas to “sustainable technologies.”

He also said Democrats would invest “to a significant degree” in electrifying the transportation system, including by providing “very significant” rebates to enable middle class people to buy electric cars that he said could bring the cost down to as low as $15,000 to $20,000.

And he reaffirmed Democrats will invest “many, many billions” into a Civilian Climate Corps that can help “young people have the opportunity to lead our country and the world in saving this planet.”

ANOTHER MERGER OF CLEAN ENERGY LOBBYING GROUPS: The American Clean Power Association and U.S. Energy Storage Association announced an intent to merge this morning after their boards of directors voted to combine their staff, programs, and members.

The merger will “further position the renewable energy and storage industries for success as they move into a decade of transformative growth,” the trade associations said.

The merger will take effect on January 1, 2022, subject to final approval from Storage Association members.

It represents a further consolidation of the clean energy industry as it seeks to speak with one voice and become a bigger lobbying power in Washington.

The American Clean Power Association itself is an expansion of the American Wind Energy Association, launching in January.

The Rundown

Bloomberg The Saudi prince of oil vows to drill ‘every last molecule’

Reuters From China to Germany, floods expose climate vulnerability

New York Times PG&E aims to curb wildfire risk by burying many power lines



10 a.m. 366 Dirksen. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to examine White House budget request for the Department of the Interior for Fiscal Year 2022.

10:30 a.m. 2123 Rayburn. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s energy subcommittee will hold a hearing on oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.


12 p.m. OurEnergyPolicy will hold a webinar on proposed federal clean energy standards, with opening remarks by Sen. Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota.

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Tags: Energy and Environment, Daily on Energy

Original Author: Josh Siegel

Original Location: Daily on Energy: Startup claims breakthrough on holy grail battery technology

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