BloombergNEF predicts that investment in power storage will hit about US $9bn in 2020. This is about four times the level of investment in 2017. The U.S. energy storage market is expected to grow by a factor of 12 in the next five years — from 430 megawatts in 2019 to more than 5 gigawatts — according to the Wood Mackenzie Energy Storage Service, a division of Wood Mackenzie Energy Research & Consultancy. The firm estimates that the total energy storage market value in the U.S. alone will be $5.3 billion by 2024.

Since Alessandro Volta, the state has always set policy in power more than in any other industry, leaving capital markets to work their magic. Volta’s battery sparked a great amount of scientific excitement and drew admiration from Napoleon Bonaparte with whom he enjoyed a lifelong amount of closeness. The role of the state was pivotal in the propagation and dissemination of the discovery and the findings of Volta’s experiments.

Vested interest and out-of-date thinking cannot drive innovation and the accumulation of capital. But a vituperative argument can. Bitter disagreement between Galvani and Volta propelled Volta to assemble a pile a metal plates separated by paper soaked in brine to produce the first continuous flow of electricity. Volta won the argument.  The Voltaic pile is the forerunner to every battery used in forklifts, cordless power tools, toys, hybrid cars, magic jacks, remote controls, tablets, smart phones and laptops. Moreover, rechargeable lithium ion batteries efficiently convert the sun’s energy into electricity, keeping satellites orbiting the Earth for years. But today, the politics of power can touch extinction or exile.

Greta Thunberg has called on Extinction Rebellion (XR) demonstrators to defy a police order banning them from protesting across London. XR is a civil disobedience group campaigning to prompt action on the climate emergency. Greta has asked everyone to speak the truth and to collectively prevent as much of the foreseeable damage as is still possible.

Thunberg wants to prevent the global temperature rise from going 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and to achieve zero emissions globally by 2034. This is much sooner than zero emissions globally by 2075. It’s also much faster than reaching zero emissions globally by 2050, which is the UN’s new target and would give us a 1 in 2 chance of limiting temperature rise by 1.5°C. To untangle the acceleration problem of CO2 accumulation means we need to remove our CO2 emissions about three or four times the speed at which we are producing them. If we don’t start the cuts now, the danger is that the present escalating rates of emissions, concentrations, temperature and positive feedbacks to changing climate, could potentially hasten completely beyond our ability to control them.

In Bolivia, the exile of Evo Morales accentuates how the politics of environmentalism and social justice intersect in “white petroleum” as lithium as a source of power is described. South America is home to the “lithium triangle”, a vast area of lithium-rich salt pans in the Andean high desert across Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. Bolivia’s territorial neighbours export refined lithium but Bolivia intended to use its lithium reserves to produce raw materials and battery components as part of a strategy to foster domestic industrialisation.

Since 2010, Lithium-ion batteries have become 85 per cent less expensive as multinationals have invested in Gigafactories to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. ESS, which makes long-duration, iron flow batteries, secured $30 million in a Series C investment round from Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), the group of private investors led by Bill Gates and fellow billionaires Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson and Jack Ma.

Tycoons like Jack Ma of Ali Baba and Jeff Bezos of Amazon are investing in energy storage startups that are using everything from novel battery designs to molten salt to pressurized water pumped underground.  MPC Caribbean Clean Energy is an asset company that facilitates investment in renewable energy projects in the Caribbean. It is registered in Barbados and listed on the Jamaican Stock Exchange and the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange.

The clean energy investment specialist MPC Renewable Energies (MPC), a 100% subsidiary of the publicly listed German asset and investment manager MPC Capital, started the Company after attentive interrogation of Caribbean energy markets. MPC Caribbean Clean Energy Fund and ANSA McAL Limited planned in 2018 to invest in the operational 21 MW Tilawind windpark in Costa Rica. Tilawind is the second acquisition for the MPC Caribbean Clean Energy Fund following its investment in the 51 MWp Paradise Park Solar PV greenfield project in Jamaica.

The shift away from dirty sources of power has to be incentivised. In 2018, the US Department of Energy offered US $28m in research grants for projects around long-term storage as compared to US $150m as a tax break for coal royalties. Moreover, battery technologies do not have equitable access to power grids and customers. Regional Power Markets will have to be directed by the state to open up to energy storage. The shift to clean energy in the West Indies will not happen unless energy can be stored with greater efficiency.