Thermal energy storage (TES) has been used in many contexts and applications, from building management and manufacturing to electricity generation. In a new report prepared for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, Brattle consultants focus on an emerging, commercially available application: electricity-powered thermal batteries that can convert renewable electricity into heat for industrial processes.

The primary findings of the study include:

  • Thermal batteries offer the potential to provide a cost-competitive clean energy supply for industrial heating applications and deliver a large volume of flexible, controllable demand for balancing the power grid.
  • Thermal batteries can be cost-competitive with natural gas in much of the US even today, though the strength of the business case depends on the configuration of electricity supply, location, access to wholesale power prices, any greenhouse gas (GHG) price that may be applied, and eligibility for policy support – particularly until the technology achieves sufficient deployment scale.
  • The most critical barriers to large-scale deployment of thermal batteries are lack of access to wholesale power prices and modern electricity rate structures reflective of the underlying costs of delivering power to the thermal battery (i.e., “cost causation”), which can be substantially lower for flexible, controllable sources of demand like thermal batteries. Customers outfitted with thermal batteries can optimally schedule these systems to reduce the net costs of electrification and help balance the grid.

The report, “Thermal Batteries: Opportunities to Accelerate Decarbonization of Industrial Heat,” is authored by Principals Dr. Kathleen Spees and Michael Hagerty and Research Analyst Jadon Grove. The full report is available below.

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