The Way We Get Electricity Is About to Change Forever

Superior batteries are on the way, and they could disrupt power markets within the next decade—Sooner Than You Think.
by Tom Randall

Batteries are everywhere these days: in our iPhones, toothbrushes, vacuum cleaners, and electric cars. But batteries—really big batteries—are just getting started.

The idea is that grid-sized versions might be used to store excess wind and solar power, smoothing out the peaks and valleys of the electricity supply. There’s just one problem: Batteries are still way too expensive when stacked up against cheap coal and natural gas. Today, less than one-tenth of one percent of the world’s electricity spends any time in a storage battery.

The question is: How far will battery prices tumble, and will it all happen in time to help wipe fossil fuels off the grid? That’s the subject of the latest installment of Bloomberg’s animated web series, Sooner Than You Think, which examines some of the biggest transformations in human history that haven’t happened quite yet.

As we build more electric cars and electricity storage, the cost of batteries plummets. Prices have dropped by half just since 2014. If this learning curve continues, a widespread transformation of power grids could begin within this decade. Cheap solar and wind power will spread ever faster—now backed by batteries.

The timing of new technologies is difficult to predict, but it may not be long before the battery revolution becomes impossible to ignore.