New Energy Expert Insights – Lucas Sadler of Energy Vault

In this edition of New Energy Expert Insights, we sat down with Lucas Sadler, Energy Vault’s Vice President of Sales in Asia Pacific and an expert in energy storage and associated technologies, to unpack the benefits and challenges of implementing energy storage systems (ESS) at scale.

With over 30 years of sales leadership experience across the renewable energy, power generation and rapidly evolving energy storage sectors, Lucas is responsible for driving sales, business development and demand generation for Energy Vault’s energy storage software and infrastructure technologies across the Asia Pacific Region. Lucas has a wealth of expertise from his senior sales, business development and management roles in renowned companies such as Schneider Electric, Powerark Solar, Origin Energy, Yingli Green Energy, EnergyAustralia and Samsung.

Energy Vault develops and deploys turnkey sustainable energy storage solutions which are designed to transform current approaches to utility-scale energy storage while maintaining grid stability.

What are the primary challenges and risks associated with implementing large scale ESS in Australia, despite the evident advantages they offer?

The transition towards a sustainable-energy-future hinges on effectively integrating renewable energy sources into the power grid. Energy storage will play a pivotal role by offering the means to capture and store excess renewable energy during periods of high generation and release it to meet peak demand. However, the road to widespread adoption of large-scale ESS is marked by a series of complex challenges and risks that require careful navigation.

A significant obstacle is the substantial cost to establish and maintain large scale energy storage facilities. Unlike traditional fossil fuel technologies, which often benefit from established infrastructure, energy storage technologies demand significant upfront investment to build or retrofit existing infrastructure.

Inadequate government incentives and a lack of recognised markets in the National Electricity Market which value the flexibility and grid stability services which ESS services offer make them less attractive to investors.

The regulatory landscape adds another layer of complexity. Navigating energy market regulations and grid operation frameworks is intricate and time-consuming. Policy changes to streamline existing regulations and create a favourable investment climate while fostering fair competition in the market are essential ingredients which will encourage ESS uptake and integration.

While ESS should, in the long term, contribute towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the materials, manufacturing processes and end-of-life disposal of these systems must be carefully managed to minimise their environmental footprint. Striking this balance is imperative to ensure that the benefits of energy storage do not come at the expense of sustainability.

We must not overlook the social dimension either. Gaining public acceptance and support for the establishment of energy storage facilities, particularly in local communities, can be a significant challenge. Addressing concerns related to visual impact, noise, health and safety concerns is essential to foster a positive attitude towards these projects.

Given the importance of ESS to meet renewable energy targets, how important is it for the Australian government to attract local and foreign investment in this sector?

Australia has some of the best renewable resources in the world and it is in Australia’s best interests to invest in ESS to meet both energy demands and its net zero targets. However, the energy sector is facing a number of challenges that can only be described as a ‘perfect storm’. Leading contributors include policy uncertainty and government inertia, regulatory complexity, grid constraints and aging infrastructure, lack of long-term planning and increased occurrences of extreme weather events due to climate change.

Energy storage is an important tool to address some of these issues. However, it is not a panacea for all that ails the energy industry. Urgent government leadership and vision is required to build key infrastructure and develop human resources necessary to implement and maintain the ‘new’ energy system.

Policy measures must be reviewed on an urgent basis to make Australia and its energy industry more attractive to investors. For instance, generally in other markets, such as California, the lead time from application to construction of an energy storage facility in most cases is much shorter, while in Australia regulatory and grid approval results in a varied and often protracted process of generally between 9 to 18 months. It is imperative that the systemic weaknesses resulting in such long delays are identified and resolved if the country is to make maximum use of the opportunities available to it.

Energy Vault has a strong track record of innovation and successful project implementation in ESS. What is it about the Energy Vault approach that gives its investors the confidence to invest in ESS projects?

Energy Vault’s appeal to investors rests on several pillars. First, our gravity-based technology is both scalable and adaptable, offering solutions that align with various project sizes and markets. This compatibility extends to seamless grid integration and harmonious coexistence with renewable energy sources.

Secondly, investors are increasingly looking for sustainable and eco-friendly solutions. Energy Vault’s system is inherently sustainable, using locally sourced materials like concrete and recycled kinetic energy, which aligns with the global push for greener energy solutions.

Energy Vault has a history of successful project implementations and can point to past projects as evidence of the technology’s viability and effectiveness, which reduces the perceived risk associated with new technologies.

Energy Vault has also established partnerships with key players in the energy industry, including utilities and renewable energy developers. These alliances give our customers and markets confidence in the company’s ability to navigate the complex energy landscape and gain market access.

In summary, Energy Vault’s innovative technology, sustainability focus, reliability, scalability, track record, partnerships, cost competitiveness, and experienced management team collectively provide investors with the confidence to invest in ESS projects developed by the company.

In our recent NEAN fireside chat, you noted the potential for increased energy equity in communities including the potential gamification of the energy sector to encourage renewable energy uptake. Can you please expand on what that might look like?

While the emergence of artificial intelligence in energy storage poses significant concerns about cybersecurity and market manipulation, there is no doubt that resources to optimise renewable energy consumption and promote sustainable practices are readily available.

Many countries, including Singapore, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Germany and the United Kingdom, have implemented gamification initiatives in their energy sector. Singapore’s Energy Market Authority launched a gamified mobile application called “My Green World” which allows consumers to monitor their electricity consumption, set energy-saving goals and win points and badges thereby making energy efficiency a part of their day.

Energy equity refers to the fair and accessible distribution of affordable and reliable energy resources across all segments of society, regardless of socioeconomic factors. Energy equity models empower local residents to become active participants in the renewable energy transition.

By facilitating community investment in, and ownership of renewable energy generation resources such as rooftop solar farms or community battery systems, communities become active participants in meeting their energy needs. Active participation by energy consumers improves the uptake of energy efficient technologies and ultimately reduces the reliance on centralised and often dirty forms of energy distribution systems.

How do you see the energy storage market developing over the next few years?

The energy storage market will likely undergo expansion in tandem with the rising demand for renewable energy. Grid stability and intermittency management needs will be the primary drivers of this growth.

A policy of decentralised energy generation through the deployment of microgrids for the purposes of reducing strain on the central grid will help consolidate this growth.

In addition to the volume driven expansion of the energy storage market, energy management software will become more sophisticated with the ability to accommodate dynamic pricing and demand patterns and integrate with smart grid conditions. Artificial intelligence and predictive analytics will be the catalyst of this evolution.

While energy storage holds great promise to facilitate Australia’s energy transition, realising its full potential requires addressing a multitude of challenges and risks. From financial and technical considerations to regulatory hurdles and environmental responsibilities, a comprehensive approach is needed to ensure the successful deployment of ESS.

For more information, please contact Matt Baumgurtel and David O’Carroll.


Senior Associate