Any discussion with John Jung, President & CEO of Greensmith Energy, is likely to provide a fresh perspective on the matter at hand. It’s easy to see why, in 2009, when a group of investors saw the potential for creating a new contender in energy storage, they elected to put Jung at the helm.
Even though the market potential for battery-based energy solutions was already in the air, Jung was keen to push for a more expansive outlook for the electrical grid and differentiated technology approach:
“I decided to set a very different strategy and course for the company than the rest of the industry, which was fascinated with finding a better battery or trying their hand at small systems for home use. I believed that it was important to have a larger impact on the grid by going utility-scale right away.”
“I also believed that while they're merely components, battery innovations would continue to be developed indefinitely, and that no particular battery would be appropriate for all uses of energy storage. Most importantly, I felt there was greater value in thinking about energy storage as a distributed computer that – like data centres and now cloud computing – could be built large or small, integrated into a network as appropriate, and serve different jobs simultaneously."
Jung saw energy storage technology as having the potential to become a flexible, programmable asset – one that would deliver value as a generation or distribution asset – and could complement other grid assets through integration and optimisation algorithms. He speculated that energy storage could become the first versatile appliance used by operators of all shapes and sizes of grids around the world to solve a variety of grid congestion issues.
“While the venture capital community was funding investments in battery technologies and chemistries, the crux of our technology strategy was that of energy storage adding tremendous value through scale, integration, software and data. This also involved building a platform that could leverage different batteries for different applications and be fully integrated with any other grid asset.”
Jung takes the iPhone as an analogous product from another industry altogether:
“No one talks about the chips inside their phone – these are just viewed as a commodity. Whereas everything you can do with it – and the huge number of products that have been substituted by this single device and platform – that’s where the value lies. In fact, Apple sold more iPhones in Q4 2016 than the PC industry sold computers."