Ashok Thakur, editor of ETN (Emerging Technology News) interviews Dr Rahul Walawalkar, chair for World Energy Storage Day, a global conference which acts as a platform for leading companies, energy industry stakeholders and policymakers to showcase what has been achieved over the past year and discuss roadmaps for the industry’s future when it comes to energy storage.
Who should join the World Energy Storage Day?
World Energy Storage Day (WESD) is a global movement. I encourage all to participants to join the event. We will have more than 100 CXOs from the leading companies as well as some of the top researchers and policymakers from 30 + countries who will be speaking at the event. So, it is a great opportunity to learn from the top minds in the industry on a single platform. Also, people have a choice where they can focus either on a particular conference that focuses on their region. We have divided the world in four regions. APAC, starting with China, Japan, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand as the first region; India, the Russian sub-continent as the second region; Europe, the Middle East, and Africa as the third region, and then North and South America as the fourth region.
People can either focus on just their region and participate in a full 6-hour conference in their [regional] track or if they are focused just on one segment such as stationary storage, e-mobility, green hydrogen or manufacturing they may want to participate in the sessions related to those technologies across different regions. So, there will be some overlap between the region, but, in terms of the planning, we have tried to make sure that people who are interested in any one functional area can navigate from different regions without having any significant overlap.
So that way people can hold up for a span of maybe 15-16 hours and learn similar topics happening from more than 30 different countries and keep track of their development. This is also a great opportunity for students to learn. So again, the basic conference registration is free so anyone can register and listen in live to any of the sessions.
Apart from the 16 conference sessions which will cover stationary, e-mobility, green hydrogen, and manufacturing in each of the regions, we will also have, 10 additional workshops, which will cover different topics such as giga factory supply chain, women in energy, skill development, solar-plus-storage, energy storage modelling, and optimisation and urban air mobility and a few others such as safety and fires which is a workshop led by Underwriters Laboratory. So, there are a lot of learning opportunities where people can pick and choose areas which they want to attend.
If people are interested in networking, then there is also a premium option available, where people will get behind-the-scenes access to the networking lounge, where they can interact with the speakers who will be joining throughout the day, as well as get access to the recordings from the various sessions and any presentation materials that have been shared throughout the day, through a nominal fee of $99. People can choose either of the options. And, last year we had participation from more than 5,000 delegates from 130 countries, and this year we are expecting to exceed that.
So technically we are trying to create the platform for the sectors to come and deliberate and show their strength on that day.
Yes. So, this is again, a great platform where leading companies will showcase what they have achieved over the past year, as well as their roadmap for the coming 3-5 years. The same with policymakers, they will be talking about what are the key policy changes that have happened in each of the regions over the last 12-months and what the industry can expect in each of the regions in the upcoming 12-24 months. So, this is a great opportunity for both, those people who are speaking to showcase their capabilities and advances as well as for others looking to learn, take benefit, and leapfrogging by learning from these leaders.
We have observed that there is industry participation at WESD but in today’s time you see a lot of governments also supporting in-take as a whole. So, why is it important for government to join this day?
So again, from governments and policymakers’ point of view, they usually try to learn from other leaders. Some regions have emerged as global leaders like the US. More recently, China and Europe have taken the lead in pushing for advanced storage and e-mobility manufacturing, but other regions and governments can learn from the experience of these countries and make sure that they are able to lead.
For example, countries like India have demonstrated in areas of adoption of solar technology or earlier cellular mobile technology where although India was not a leader, with this technology adoption was started by tapping into, at the right point, India was able to become one of the top markets and benefited from these technology transitions.
There is a great opportunity for many countries to learn from the experience of the last 10-15 years. The regions that have promoted storage and are now getting on the adoption cycle, can help other countries leapfrog and jump through some of the linear learning curves, which otherwise countries go through. Through, World Energy Storage Day (WESD), we are all trying to accelerate this process, increase the adoption of these advanced technologies, and encourage global collaborations, because that is very important.
Often, people think that their country is something unique. Their region is unique. Some environmental conditions are unique, but when you are looking at the experiences from around the globe, there are every type of use-case for every type of environmental condition based on what individual countries may be facings. So, there are enough learnings, already from somewhere else in the world, and by learning from that we can accelerate the timeline for adoption of these technologies.
Moving onto the sessions specifically. Can you explain that each session, for example, the Manufacturing session, what do you plan to cover in the session and what can the audience expect from this session?
Over the last five years, the term giga factories have come to prominence. So, these manuacturing sessions are expected to focus on the giga factories, not necessarily only for Li-ion batteries but it would be for any technologies, batteries, or even electrolysers or, EV manufacturing. So, we will have some of the thought leaders and practitioners from around the world who will come in and share about how they have gone ahead and set up their giga factories and what others can learn from their experience.
One of the critical challenges which are going to come up in the next 4-5 years is related to the supply chain. This is because all these giga factories are now looking at scaling the global manufacturing operations for advanced lithium-ion manufacturing from 1000GWh to more than 5,000 GWh to 7,000 GWh within the next seven years. So, you need to tap into a much more diverse supply chain as well as start paying much closer attention to some of the environmental parameters. So, we will be focusing on various aspects of giga factories as well as their associated supply chain and manufacturing equipment during the manufacturing sessions in each region.
Similarly, the other three sessions for the main conference will cover stationary energy storage, where we will be talking about various storage applications for supporting grid for customer-cited energy storage deployment for renewable integration and the type of policy and market mechanisms that have created opportunities for deployment of storage in different parts of the region.
In the e-mobility session, we will be focusing both on mobility infrastructure in terms of the charging system development and learnings from around the globe as well as the various forms of mobility such as four-wheeler, two-wheeler, three-wheeler, and electric buses will be covered.
In the green hydrogen session, we will be focusing on the rapid emergence of green hydrogen as a technology for decarbonising the industrial sector. We see a lot of differences where in certain regions green hydrogen is being seen for decarbonisation of the power sector by converting existing gas turbines into directly hydrogen as a fuel source, whereas in other regions like India, the focus is more on applications such as petroleum refining or the creation of ammonia or fertiliser and then using green hydrogen for replacing grey hydrogen and trying to reduce the carbon intensity of these sectors.
We will be covering all these different aspects in the sessions. Apart from this, there are 10 thematic workshops where the idea is that people from different regions may be interested in learning common themes, such as safety and fire related learnings. In the Safety and Learning session, UL will lead by sharing insights from the work being done around the globe. We will focus on other aspects such as skill development, where we will be talking about how different countries are taking initiatives for meeting the growing requirements for the sector in terms of scaling, and what we can do in terms of accelerating and scaling platforms that are already developed and deployed in different regions and try to encourage global collaborations in that.
Other sessions will include solar-plus-storage, where we will specifically focus on the emergence as the cheapest energy source, and how storage technologies can help in making solar much more dispatchable and round-the-clock asset. And then we will also talk about storage modelling, storage optimisation, which is very essential when you are looking at building and then operating projects in any of the market region.
We have a session on women in energy to talk about how we work together for involving women in the sector and benefits in terms of diversification of the workforce and other areas.
One important session where I want your input is the Global Startup Showcase.
Yes. The way I think about it is as a competition. So, for the global startup showcase 2.0, the competition is on and start-ups from around the world are applying right now.
The application window is open 22nd of September and we have a panel of 15+ experts who will be shortlisting. These start-ups and the top 10 start-ups will get an opportunity to present to 50+ global investors who are very actively looking at investing in energy storage and mobility-related start-ups.
You can visit startup.energystorageday.org where you can learn about the competition and the experience of various investors and participants from last year. And, if you are a start-up working on some innovative technology or innovative application of technology then feel free to apply. We look forward to connecting you with potential investors, as well as strategic partners through this platform.
ABOUT DR RAHUL WALAWALKAR
Dr Rahul Walawalkar is President & MD of customised energy solutions India Pvt. Ltd. and chair of World Energy Storage Day.
Walawalkar founded the India Energy Storage Alliance in 2012 and continues to serve as its President. He served as board member for Energy Storage Association, USA during 2009-15 and as the Chair for Global Energy Storage Alliance during 2018-20.
He holds a PhD in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University and Master’s degree in Energy Management from NYIT, United States and B.E. from Walchand College of Engineering, India.