Hyderabad: World Energy Storage Day (WESD) virtual global conference & expo is being organised on Wednesday to commemorate the fifth WESD to foster a global ecosystem for the promotion of energy storage and emerging technologies. India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) is organising the WESD-global conference & expo.
The 24-hour marathon event will be held on September 22, 2021, covering four global regions (encompassing Asia Pacific, India – Russia, Europe – the Middle East & Africa, and North & South America) with sessions on stationary energy storage, e-mobility, and charging infrastructure, manufacturing, innovation, R&D and green hydrogen.
The event is expected to attract global participation from over 100 countries with an intent to facilitate bilateral trade, market development, and new research and innovation with the participation of regulators, policymakers, and international speakers.
The conference will also have nine parallel workshops organised by various partners. These workshops aim to help in skill development, to understand and learn the fundamentals of advanced energy storage technology trends, to bring together stakeholders to catalyse partnerships and activities, share experience on best-practice technologies, to help identify any gaps, and international cooperation.
The event will have four conference tracks each of eight hours that will be available to the participants in different languages namely English, Chinese, Japanese, German, Korean, Spanish, Hindi, and French.
Leading organisations, government bodies, national labs, and associations across the globe will be presenting their country’s contribution in the sector and will deliberate on the latest trends.
India is gearing up to create manufacturing, R&D and testing capabilities in the batteries space and the recently approved production linked incentive (PLI) scheme will act as a catalyst to meet both domestic and export needs (once self-reliance is achieved).
The Union Cabinet recently approved Rs 18,100 crore PLI scheme for Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) battery, providing new opportunities in the consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and renewable energy sectors. It aims to enable setting up 50 GWh annual production capacity ACC manufacturing facilities and lead to net savings of Rs 2 lakh crores-Rs 2.5 lakh crores on account of oil import bill reduction.
Dr Rahul Walawalkar, president, India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA), told Telangana Today, “The ACC programme will enable Indian companies to take the first step to become part of the global advanced battery manufacturing ecosystem and attract global technology leaders and investors to invest in India. ACC batteries will be crucial for India’s energy security in the coming decade given its role in enabling renewable integration and e-mobility transition.”
The scheme is directly linked to production which will lead to creation of manufacturing capabilities in the country. The focus will be on stationary energy storage, mobility and consumer electronics sectors. Higher incentive is expected for higher performance batteries. The scheme allows flexibility for companies to upgrade the technology after five years and claim higher incentive to develop higher performance cells. This will not only meet the domestic value addition needs but also enable catering to global markets. The next 12-18 months are going to be crucial for Indian industry. The supply chain is set to improve significantly, Walawalkar emphasized.
India had been importing cells completely. In the last five years, the industry has started building capability for cell packs. In the last year, 5 GW hr (worth $600-700 million) of cells had been imported. This number could go to 100 GW hr in the next one decade. Majority of the cells are coming from China, Korea and Taiwan. Consumer electronics (cell phones and laptops), telecom towers, backup batteries, electric vehicles remain the major consuming segments of lithium-ion batteries. In the next 10 years, EVs will certainly dominate, particularly after 2025, he noted.
While the Department of Heavy industries is going to implement the PLI scheme, several other government departments and Niti Aayog will coordinate and monitor the implementation of the scheme in the country. Pan-India, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat are leading in the energy storage and EV space. Gradually States such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are also trying to attract investments.
He said, “India is on the path to improve design, research and development. IESA has been making efforts to build these capabilities in the country by 2022. The focus will be on energy density, compactness and long usage life. The industry is expected to significantly invest, so that niche technologies can be developed.”
IESA is also closely working with the government to ensure safety standards are maintained in making batteries that are used across verticals, particularly when the focus is going to be on high density. Testing labs for evaluating performance standards are being set up. Niti Aayog is also providing guidance in this direction. He said, “IESA has already set up three testing labs in Pune and is looking to replicate the lab model across the country and work with testing agencies and testing equipment companies.”
“These are crucial for tapping export opportunities. IESA is also rolling out initiatives to incorporate renewable energy in battery making plants. We are also looking into recycling/waste treatment and setting up zero discharge facilities of lead acid batteries makers,” he added.
Even though the country has missed out on manufacturing opportunities in the past, as it happened with the solar sector, storage is one of the emerging areas which is also critical for the national energy security programme. The government recently approved the PLI scheme on ACC battery storage for achieving manufacturing capacity of 50 giga-watt-hour (GWh) with an outlay of Rs 18,100 crore. Rahul Walawalkar, president of the India Energy Storage Alliance, tells FE’s Anupam Chatterjee he believes the scheme can provide the right platform for the industry to turn India into a global storage manufacturing hub. Excerpts:
Is the incentive of Rs 2,000 per kWh sufficient to attract industry?
The incentive of Rs 2,000/unit offered under PLI is a good amount. In fact, practically we expect most of the companies to receive much lower incentives. The incentive is contingent on the domestic value capture and in the initial years, this domestic value capture is expected to be around 50% and the companies will be incentivised accordingly. However, we feel that it is sufficient to help the industry get through some of the teething inefficiencies which we will have when we start the plants. The scheme structure provides higher incentive for companies manufacturing advanced cells.
How about the market for storage products in the country?
The government is giving five years to scale up manufacturing capacity to 50 GWh and we do expect that the domestic demand itself will cross this capacity by 2026 or 2027. We think the stationary market (mostly power sector) will contribute to most of the demand growth till 2025, and beyond that, the electric vehicle market will start taking up the larger share. In other parts of the world such as the US, Europe and Australia, GWh scale storage deployment has been happening for the last couple of years because policy makers in these countries did detailed cost benefit analysis back in 2012-13. Unfortunately in India, policy makers had been looking for cheaper solutions and while were waiting for it, cost has fallen down by around 50% in the last five years.
Does that mean we have missed out the opportunity?
We are definitely late. But the good part is, there has been a lot of changes in the technology front. Right now China is the dominant player and the US has less than 40 GWh of manufacturing capacity, while Europe has around 20-30 GWh. The other countries do not have a huge lead, so if we move fast right now, we can catch up. We are late by 2-3 years, but if we now run, we can still catch the train.
Will locally manufactured products be cheaper than imports?
There are companies which are setting up 100 GWh storage manufacturing units outside, so it is impossible for domestic players with much lower capacities to match their rates. It will take some time to build the capacities and achieve the economy of scale for local companies to become competitive without any government support.
How do you expect the manufacturing industry to react to the PLI scheme?
We expect the government to receive bids for 70-100 GWh and anticipate around five to seven companies to benefit from the scheme. Right now it is easier to name the handful of large companies which have not shown any interest in the energy storage sector. Currently, we do not have the entire supply chain in India.
The cell prices are also expected to keep dropping. So, we expect the government incentive to be in the range of Rs 1,000/unit or thereabouts, which is sufficient to overcome the initial challenges for the industry. In another two years, import duties are also expected to be levied on the cells. On a ballpark basis, it requires investment of $50-75 million per GWh for setting up manufacturing capacities, depending on the technologies to be used.
Aren’t there raw material supply constraints?
For lithium-ion batteries, lithium comprises only 3-5% of the total material cost. Many other materials like nickel, manganese, cobalt, aluminum, copper, graphite are also required. India has sufficient reserves for a number of these elements. India may not have traditional reserves for items like lithium, but countries like Australia and Bolivia are very much eager to supply these materials to us and we can process them to make battery-grade products. The shortage of raw materials is more of a distraction and these are not the main issues. There are challenges in the processing side, but India has a very strong chemical industry.
Significant progress has been made in battery technology and infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs) in the past few years, Rahul Walawalkar, founder and executive director of the India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA), said.
In an interaction with TOI, Walawalkar said more needs to be done in terms of financing and raw materials.
IESA has worked with the Union government and other stakeholders, such as NITI Aayog, for the R18,100 crore product-linked incentive scheme announced by the Centre last week. The scheme aims to create 50GWh of energy storage in advanced chemistry cell (ACC) batteries over the next five years. The policy includes both mobile and stationary batteries — for EVs and electrical grid supply.
“That process started in 2016, when giga factories to manufacture batteries and EVs were just about to be built. This incentive scheme will accelerate the process to create more energy storage, both mobile and stationary. We are a key stakeholder,” Walawalkar said.
He added that electric vehicles were slowly gaining traction in India, and despite the comparatively higher unit costs, overall savings were many times that of vehicles running on fossil fuels, especially for fleet owners. “The transition to electric vehicles can save a lot of money for fleet owners. The only issue with buying electric vehicles in India is adequate financing. More people in India will buy electric vehicles if manufacturers produce aspirational vehicles with good features, like Tesla did in the United States,” he said.
Walawalkar added that several PSUs and private companies have set up a considerable number of charging stations in India, while issues such as power ratings, and fast and slow charging are being looked at by the Bureau of Indian Standards and other organizations. He added that raw materials were also not a concern for Indian manufacturers, but processing may be.
“Even if India does not have much commercial-grade lithium, many countries in Asia and Latin America do, and they are more than willing to supply Indian companies. Processing of raw materials, however, is an issue. India can also utilize its recycling infrastructure and meet its lithium requirements by recycling,” he added.
At a time when fighting against Covid-19 and improving the health infrastructure in the country are top priorities, India's push towards electric mobility may have taken a backseat. Even as the world races towards electrification of its public and individual transport options, India's strides - comparatively slower as these already were - are likely to become shorter still. But the Indian automotive industry remains optimistic about the future of electrification in India even if it is largely cognizant of the fact that present times have more pressing requirements.
A report in December of last year by India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) predicted that the EV market in India will touch 63 lakh units per year by 2027. It may be rather ambitious because sales of EVs in India fell 20% to 2.36 lakh units in FY 2021, as per Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicle (SMEV). This includes electric PVs, two-wheelers, three-wheelers etc.
From 2.36 lakh to over 63 lakh would be quite a climb - possible yet challenging. And the pandemic isn't expected to help matters either.
A number of players in the luxury segment either launched or confirmed plans to bring in their respective EV offerings. Jaguar Land Rover launched the I-Pace. Volvo showcased its XC40 Recharge. Audi will bring in e-tron and Mercedes already launched EQC late last year. And key mass-market players reportedly also have plans to offer more affordable products.
But with the second wave of the pandemic - and a predicted third later in 2021, EV infrastructure may drop down in the list of government priorities. "World over, higher upfront costs and challenges around charging of electrified vehicles (EVs) are key barriers to adoption of electric mobility. In India, these are further accentuated due to higher consumer price sensitivity and value proposition," Vikram Gulati, Country Head and Senior VP (External Affairs, PR and CSR) at Toyota Kirloskar Motor, explains. "As the current Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect both the health and economy, the impact is as much on the automotive industry so to say. The on-going pandemic is likely to further heighten the challenge over customer acceptance of EVs."
Gulati feels government support for electric mobility in India has been 'commendable' but what lies ahead?
Jyoti Malhotra, MD at Volvo Car India, admits Covid-19 will have implications but that these won't just be for the auto industry alone. "Covid will have an impact on the speed of EV infrastructure growth, but then this is true for other sectors also," he tells HT Auto, adding that he remains optimistic. "Transformation towards electric vehicles is not an overnight process. It is a complete ecosystem that is evolving and will continue to do so."
Santosh Iyer, VP (Sales and Marketing) at Mercedes-Benz India, also agrees that while Covid-19 has emerged as a massive challenge for the country, improving EV infrastructure is a long-drawn process. "EV infrastructure ramp-up in India requires a mid to long-term approach with certain key focus areas and there has been progress in those areas," he explains. "(However) The current focus is to do all that can be done to subside the health crisis. Our priorities also remain to protect the health of our people and also sustain the health of the business moving forward."
Iyer expects some markets to gradually open by the end of June but adds that much would depend on how the rate of transmission and the spread of the pandemic is checked.
But at a crucial time when taxes on conventional sources of fuel remain key revenue sources for central and state governments looking at providing relief to people at large, what would it mean for the fate of battery-powered options. "This is a Catch 22 situation. While conventional fuels do give revenue to central and state governments, they also account for the largest chunk of forex outflow from the country. The country will have to do a fine balancing act on this front," says Malhotra.
There is little doubting that the road ahead is rather uncertain and it isn't just for EVs or the automotive sector alone. The overall consensus though is that much would depend on how fast - and how effectively - India manages to turn the tide on Covid.