Battery deployment in the U.S. faces non-technical barriers

Kara E. Rodby*

Edited by Grant A. Knappe

Perspective | Aug. 29 2022


DOI: 10.38105/spr.lc6a23w5va


  • Batteries are a clear path to enable a deeply decarbonized power sector
  • Battery deployment, particularly in the timely manner needed to mitigate climate change, is challenged by many non-technical roadblocks (i.e., social, economic, and political)
  • Cost and materials scalability are two of the biggest barriers to grid-scale battery adoption
  • These barriers necessitate solutions in the social, economic, and political spaces to incentivize and support more rapid adoption of batteries

Article Summary

Society already possesses an array of technologies that can decarbonize the U.S. power grid, but social, economic, and political barriers may impinge their deployment in the timescales necessary to thoroughly curb climate change. This perspective emphasizes two of the largest barriers specific to battery adoption: cost and materials. Battery costs, particularly for more nascent storage technologies, are generally still prohibitively high, largely due to an inability to overcome small-scale production; we explore an array of political and economic strategies to more rapidly promote deployment and reduce costs. One key contributor to elevated costs is the relatively higher value of essential battery materials. Smaller scale, concentrated supply chains result in materials criticality, which raises prices and challenges rapid scale-up. Here, both technical and economic solutions exist, and some are reviewed in this work. Generally, there is a tension between a company’s competitive advantage (i.e., proprietary design and manufacturing) and more cost-efficient production (i.e., centralization, standardization, etc.), that must be overcome via political and economic incentivization. Ultimately, greater urgency is needed in the public and private investment spaces to combat climate change by enabling the rapid development and deployment of the best solutions.

Open Access


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Kara E. Rodby

Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA