Research shows promise in decarbonisation drive

19th March 2021 By: Halima Frost - Reporter

Research shows promise in decarbonisation drive

SAVING FOR THE FUTURE Battery storage can become a substantial contributor to maximizing the efficacy of renewable energy

The research of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) into accelerated decarbonisation scenarios for the South African power system confirms considerable opportunity to accelerate decarbonisation at low or zero net cost, says CSIR electrochemical energy technologies research group lead Mmalewane Modibedi.

This can be achieved by leveraging the country’s considerable land mass, solar and wind resources, coupled with energy storage, as well as flexible demand and supply, as portrayed in the CSIR’s research development and innovation plan.

The CSIR plan, which focuses on developing manganese- and nickel-rich cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries, supports research on an affordable and sustainable battery cathode material for systems development.

The cathode materials include lithium manganese oxide (LMO), lithium manganese nickel oxide (LMNO) and lithium manganese nickel cobalt (LMNC).

Modibedi explains that the council is supported by its intellectual property (IP) portfolio, research capabilities and abundant South African mineral resources.

Subsequent to building up a reasonable IP portfolio in batteries, Modibedi says the CSIR has a medium-term focus of ramping up a pilot programme for the production of LMO, LMNO and LMNC cathode materials for commercialisation.

These materials will support the electric vehicle industry and stationary storage solutions for the renewable-energy sector.

The CSIR aims to develop, manufacture and supply competitive cost-performance ratio and environment-friendly cathode materials to local battery manufacturers, the chemicals industry and original-equipment manufacturers.

“The CSIR is eager to engage with the local battery industry on the opportunities for advanced battery technology development and localisation.”

Moreover, she mentions that the accelerated implementation of government policy for new power generation – the Integrated Resource Plan 2019 – presents considerable opportunity to address the electricity capacity crisis and develop a local renewable-energy industry.

She points out that the CSIR analysis confirms that such an energy transition will result in a net increase in jobs and an equally positive economic impact.

Additionally, storage system development forms part of the CSIR’s long-term goals, with projects progressing with European Union partners and now also the World Bank.

The CSIR’s aim in developing battery storage is to use the relevant minerals for storage and have demonstration projects while contributing to appropriate policies and legislation, starting with South Africa and then expanding into the Southern African Development Community and sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to its work on battery storage, the CSIR is also involved in thermal energy storage, which is showing considerable promise, as almost half of such end-use energy in South Africa is for thermal applications.

“There is considerable opportunity to integrate thermal storage as part of the broader decarbonisation and cost reduction of the South African energy system,” she enthuses.

Further, using hydrogen as an energy carrier is an attractive development as a link to hydrogen production and storage.

The CSIR’s research also includes hydrogen technologies and the development of a hydrogen economy, with strong linkages to and inte- gration of energy storage, she concludes.