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Takeover, investment show UK and French fossil fuel purveyors turning to batteries

by Greg Klein | July 19, 2016

As French oil and gas giant Total takes control of battery manufacturer Saft Groupe, former UK energy executives are putting their own money in another battery company. Ex-CEOs of three British energy suppliers have invested in Moixa Technology, a company that supplies “briefcase-sized smart batteries” for energy storage, the Financial Times reports. The three are Sam Laidlaw, Ian Marchant and Brian Count, respectively former bosses of Centrica, SSE and Innogy. Centrica and SSE count among Britain’s Big Six energy suppliers.

Takeover, investment show UK and French fossil fuel purveyors turning to batteries

Energy storage technology “threatens to
disrupt the big, centralized electricity systems.”
(Photo: Moixa Technology)

“The trio are among the most high-profile UK backers of energy storage, a technology that threatens to disrupt the big, centralized electricity systems the three men once helped to run,” the FT stated. “Dozens of companies are racing to find affordable ways to store intermittent solar and wind power but the effort has been hampered by the relatively high cost of batteries. With average lithium-ion cell prices now about a third of what they were in 2010, energy investors are eyeing opportunities closely.”

Moixa calls itself “the UK leader in residential energy storage.” It’s one of at least 24 battery storage projects underway in the UK, according to figures the FT quoted from the research group Eunomia. In collaboration with utilities, Moixa’s batteries have been installed with solar panels at 500 UK sites so far, totalling 1MWh in capacity. The company says its batteries allow residential customers “to save money through accessing smart tariffs, store excess solar energy for use during peak hours or share batteries with the grid for a range of network saving benefits.”

On July 19 French oil and gas giant Total announced it had acquired over 90% of battery manufacturer Saft Groupe, “the world leader in space and defence batteries with its Li-ion technologies which are also deployed in the energy storage, transportation and telecommunication network markets.” Commenting when the transaction was first proposed in May, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Simon Moores called it “the first major foray by a fossil fuel producer into what is emerging as a major new growth industry.”

Media accounts estimate the deal at US$1.1 billion.

Read interviews with Chris Berry and Jon Hykawy discussing energy metals.

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