Please note: After several successful years, the Open Minds blog will be closing. For further details, please visit our FAQ

Currently showing: Climate/natural disasters > Climate change

23 Mar 17 10:35

Would you also love a world where all our "hunger" for energy was covered by Wind and Solar Power - and no one would need to feel bad about leaving our children to deal with issues like global warming, nuclear incident risk or long-term nuclear waste? 

As the sun isn't always shining, renewable energy is only part of the solution. We need grid storage options to get there since it would be otherwise impossible to balance supply and demand in an electricity grid. At Swiss Re's recent Expert Hearing " Bending the grid – the risks of new electricity storage innovations" (summary:, experts from the industry and science arena came together to discuss and share knowledge on storage alternatives. Many questions need to be answered: Should there be a large battery next to the power stations? Or a battery in every house? Should we upscale small batteries to grid dimensions and make them cheaper? Or turn something cheap and energy-rich into a battery? Is it better to pump water up into the valleys or compressed air into the mountains? A myriad of different scenarios and a lot to decide! Additional questions for us reinsurers are: What are the risks associated with all these choices and what should the insurance industry help cover?

Today's trend with utility scale storage is towards Lithium ion batteries, which consist of big racks of thousands of small batteries, similar to those known to all of us as used in personal appliances. A Tesla driver sits on some 7000 small batteries wired together. These 7000 units want to be kept in a pretty tight operating window. Don't overcharge or overheat! Isn't all that a bit disappointing?

There are no straight forward answers. Our energy future lies in many hands. Tech companies and investors are building new solutions, regulators and political bodies determine the rules and incentives around them. End consumers make their choices with their wallets. Also Swiss Re has an active role to play. Together with the insurance companies, science and industry, we must innovate and create tailor-made (re-)insurance solutions which support green tech investment and help the world advancing sustainable energy solutions. Challenge us! We want to make the world more resilient.

Category: Climate/natural disasters: Climate change, Resilience, Sustainable energy: Solar, Wind

1 Comment

Waldemar Razik - 6 Apr 2017, 9:18 a.m.

@Daniel: Thank You for addressing the important challenge.

Lithium ion batteries can perform quite well, but require stable thermal conditions to last and operate safely at expected levels.

Another aspect is that in some countries almost 40% of energy is utilized for heating/cooling purposes. And capital cost of harvesting solar heat through thermal solar panels or concentrated solar is lower than through photovoltaic.

In this context, a good choice might be a hybrid electricity-heat storage, where Lithium ion batteries are combined with Latent Heat storage batteries (PCM - phase change matterial).

The same principle of hybrid batteries applied to the automotive industry can extend available driving distances of e-cars and e-buses at a single-battery-charge by 10-15% -- because heat/cold is serviced by a heat/cold battery and not the Lithium ion battery itself.

The technical, operational and economic risks can be lowered and mitigated in such a setting.

There already startups active in the field of compact latent heat storage.

If you would like to leave a comment, please, log in.