AES: Investing in Innovation for the Energy Transition

24.10.2018

Innovation is essential for success in the energy business. An energy company that fails to invest in the technologies of tomorrow will be left behind in the global race to provide affordable, secure and sustainable energy.

That is why AES has invested heavily in a number of technologies that will play a crucial role in ensuring dependable supplies in the future and responding to the climate challenge. While these technologies will play an increasing important part in the energy business, we will still need conventional energy sources as a bridge to a low-carbon future. These technologies will help us make a success of the energy transition.

About 10 years ago, a small group of people at AES began working on applying advanced battery technology to the electric grid. Today, AES is a global leader in energy storage solutions that reduce the cost of delivering electricity, support the integration of renewables like wind and solar, and ensure grid reliability and resiliency.

Combining batteries with renewable power sources is a way of dealing with the variation in supply from wind or solar power. Put simply, when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, turbines and panels aren’t producing electricity. Storage is the one of the best ways to address the problem of intermittency, as it is known.

A few examples. In February this year, AES and a Hawaiian power company started work on a solar power and energy storage facility that will provide peak electricity for up to five hours at night on the island of Kaui. The facility, one of the largest in the world, will help Hawai’i meet its goal of using 100% renewable energy sources by 2045.

As AES believes in the potential of battery storage to provide affordable and flexible energy solutions, it has partnered with Germany’s Siemens to launch Fluence. The company builds on more than a decade of grid-scale battery-based energy storage and has the largest battery-based energy storage fleet in the world with over 700 MW. Fluence will supply the world’s largest lithium-ion battery storage project, a 100 MW installation in California.

Battery technology has a huge potential in the large-scale energy sector. Maroš Šefčovič, the European commissioner for energy, says that the European battery market could grow to €250 billion by 2025. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that the market for storage could be worth $100 billion by 2030.

AES has also identified and developed the potential of drones for the energy sector. Drones can be used for infrastructure maintenance in hard-to-get-to places like the inside of cooling towers and the tops of wind turbines. Sending drones in the place of humans helps keep people out of harm’s way by reducing the number of hours people are involved in potentially hazardous maintenance. Power plants often need to be shut down before human engineers can inspect cooling towers but drones can do that job while plants are still running. This protects lives and enhances business efficiency.

In 2017, AES teamed up with Measure, a leading drone service provider. The partnership allows AES to use drones across its energy infrastructure in 15 countries and improve safety. AES estimates to have avoided more than 24,000 hours of hazardous work in 2017, thanks to drone technology.

With the need for action to tackle the challenge of climate change and find new energy solutions for energy transition growing, AES believes that innovation in the right technologies is essential. We are proud of what we achieved but we know we cannot afford to be complacent.