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Energy storage and pumped hydro with Stephen Crosher, CEO of RheEnergise

An Interview with Stephen Crosher, CEO of RheEnergise

Energy storage is set to be a trillion-dollar market, could you explain why?

Governments across the world have recognised the urgency to completely decarbonise over the next 30 years. The recent invasion of Ukraine has amplified the pressing issue of energy security.

To decarbonise, countries must redesign their power systems, switching from coal, oil and gas to renewables. Renewable power is generally more distributed, more local but it is intermittent. Energy storage is the solution to intermittency and will help keep power grids stable and reliable.

Industry experts across the world, including Bloomberg New Energy Finance, IRENA, The Long Duration Energy Storage Council, McKinsey, Jacobs, Accademia, and many others have predicted this trillion-dollar market.

Malcolm Turnbull, a former Australian Prime Minister said at the World Hydro Power conference last year “When we talk about the transition to a zero-emission energy system, we often overlook the crisis within the crisis, and that is long duration storage”

To put the scale of the challenge into perspective, the world needs in the order of 2,000GW of energy storage or at least ten times the current amount available. Batteries, despite their recent growth, still make up a tiny proportion.

Most people think of batteries when they think of energy storage, can you explain how your High-Density Hydro® solution works and why is it better?

Batteries are an ideal solution for shorter durations of energy storage (2-3 hours) and are good at providing ancillary services such as frequency response. However, with batteries, for every MW of power one purchases, one gets a MWh of storage i.e. the storage lasts for 1 hour. This means that to get lots of MWhs, or long durations of storage, project sizes and costs increase.

Our solution at RheEnergise is different because the power component is decoupled from the storage component. The power is defined by the size of the pipes from the top to the bottom of the hill and the size of the turbines, whilst the energy or duration is defined by the size of the storage tanks and fluid volume. This means that one can set the power one requires and set the duration without oversizing any part of the project.

The lowest cost form of energy storage, for long durations, by far is pumped hydro. It is a very mature technology that has been around for over 100 years. What RheEnergise achieves with its High-Density Hydro® is the same low cost of storage as traditional pumped hydro, but it creates vastly more siting opportunities for projects. This is because HD Hydro uses a fluid that is 2.5 times the density of water (about the density of concrete). With High-Density Hydro® the same performance can be achieved on small hills rather than mountains, when compared to projects using water. This means that there are hundreds of thousands of sites available across the world and sites are close to where they are needed.

To summarise, High Density Hydro presents the ultra-low costs of storage associated with pumped hydro, while dramatically increasing the number of sites available and it also speeds up construction times, so that projects are built in the same sort of time scales as other energy projects – wind, solar, batteries etc.

The UK government has announced its decarbonisation and energy resilience strategy in recent days, does it go far enough? 

The short answer is No. Solutions need to be scalable and deployed quickly in the next 20 years. We need solutions that progressively deliver results and lower carbon emissions. Belching out the same level of giga-tonnes of CO2 for 30 years is not a good solution.

One of RheEnergise’s decision making strategies is to always ask whether our solution can deliver at scale, fast. High-Density Hydro can achieve this scaling because our supply chain already exists, companies make pipes and pumps and turbines. Plus, they can make them to our specification for HD Projects.

The German Government, like other European Governments, has also brought forward their decarbonisation plans by 10 years, specifically to get off Russian gas, oil and coal rapidly, how are they all going to achieve it? 

How is central Europe including Germany going to get off Russian gas in 13 years? I have absolutely no idea, but what is abundantly clear, is that in addition to rolling out more renewable energy systems and rebuilding large parts of their power grid, they will need to have an aggressive programme of long duration energy storage to manage the energy flows, manage the intermittency and to create a stable power grid from the renewable energy generated. RheEnergise can certainly be a major player in providing the solution.

You are currently submitting your first planning permission in the UK; can you explain the barriers you are experiencing? 

Remarkably few to be honest. We have questions about flora and fauna where we are building, ensuring habitat is preserved and that there is a habitat gain. We also receive questions about how we mitigate and manage any spills, in the unlikely event that they happen, and lastly the visual impact of the project. This is relatively easy to resolve as we plan to bury the pipes and screen the landscape.

You are in the final week of what appears to be a very successful fundraising campaign on CrowdCube, what you’re using the capital from the funding campaign for? 

We have several objectives over the next year, specifically to increase the commercial side of the business seeking early customers and key partnerships. We plan to continue to develop our engineering capabilities across key areas of engineering in particular our ability to process fluids at scale and the continued development of mechanical systems such as HD Hydro specific pumps, turbines, and valves.

Where are you targeting as your first markets? 

Energy markets across the world are transitioning. Australia is interesting as they have prenominal renewable energy resources and a power grid that already has challenges. Parts of the US could really do with our solution – California, New York, Texas, and Mexico have so many suitable project sites, as do places like Turkey or Saudi-Arabia. There is of course, as mentioned before, the whole of central Europe.

Early customers might be large energy consumers with 24/7 power demands, such as mines and quarries, that wish to both manage their energy costs and decarbonise.

Our challenge is actually very little to do with which market, but how to move fast enough to address the growing opportunities that exist across the world.

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