Eco Voice Q & A: Hugh McDermott, SVP Business Development & Sales, ESS Inc.

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Hugh McDermott, SVP Business Development & Sales, ESS Inc.


Mr. McDermott is the Senior Vice President Business Development & Sales for ESS Inc. An energy sector executive focused on growing energy infrastructure and advanced energy technology businesses primarily addressing utility, industrial and commercial sectors, Mr. McDermott has served in numerous executive and leadership roles throughout his career in high-growth start-up companies as well as executive roles in public listed companies. Prior to joining ESS, Inc., Mr. McDermott was the Vice President Sales for Silver Spring Networks where he successfully led the company’s market-building presence and key partnership development for Smart Grid and Smart City business across the APAC region. As Global Head of Business Development at Better Place, Mr. McDermott created the world’s first smart charging commercial offering which leveraged networked electric vehicle charging infrastructure to provide dynamic load management and energy storage services to utilities, grid operators and energy traders. Mr. McDermott is a Hokie from VA Tech where he earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering in Power Systems. Source:

To provide insights into long-duration energy storage, Tim Langdon, publisher of Eco Voice, had the pleasure of facilitating a Q & A with Hugh McDermott, SVP Business Development & Sales, ESS Inc.

Q1. What is ESS Inc focused on when it comes to renewable energy?

We’re focused on making renewable energy all day energy. To avoid catastrophic climate change, we know that we need to move quickly need to build a net-zero power sector powered by renewable energy. Renewables are increasingly the preferred source of new generation for the grid as costs continue to decline. Today, wind and solar are among the lowest-cost options for new generation capacity.

However, even with improvements in technology and continued reductions in cost, wind and solar remain inherently intermittent sources of electricity which are difficult to rely on24/7.

This is where ESS comes in. ESS iron flow energy storage technology provides up to 12 hours of energy storage which is an ideal complement for both wind and solar power. Recognizing this, the Queensland government recently announced it will use ESS’s iron flow technology, through the company’s partner, Energy Storage Industries Asia Pacific (ESI) at Stanwell Power Station.  The goal of this initiative is to demonstrate grid-scale iron flow battery storage system to harness the power of renewable energy and ultimately enable the retirement of coal generation across the state. The project aims to deliver a 150 MW battery installation by 2029.

Q2. What is long-duration energy storage?

Long-duration energy storage (LDES) encompasses a host of different technologies that store energy for prolonged periods at competitive cost and scale and make that energy available when needed for extended periods of 8-12 hours or more. This is in contrast to short-duration storage which is 4 hours or less and that makes up the vast majority of installed storage capacity installed to-date. Today’s short-duration systems can buffer brief fluctuations in the grid, but are not sufficient to fully balance renewable variability. In addition to ESS products, there are a range of additional LDES technologies in development and early stages of commercialization that are targeting a wide number of applications and use cases.

In order to build a cost-optimal net-zero energy system , LDES needs to be rapidly deployed at scale. By 2040, Mckinsey & Company and the LDES Council predict that the global grid will require  1.5–2.5 TW (85–140 TWh) of LDES, ~400x current levels.

Q3.  Why is long-duration energy storage important in terms of assisting a faster move to renewables?

LDES is the means to transforming intermittent and variable renewable energy into reliable base load energy, As the world transitions to increasingly renewable generation, LDES becomes increasingly important for resilience and enables cost effective 24/7 renewable power.

In Australia, LDES can also play a central role in providing carbon-free power to the  approximately 500,000 people who live in off-grid locations and currently rely on diesel generators for power. LDES paired with solar generation can power microgrids for these communities and enable low cost, renewable power at even the most remote sites. Ultimately, this is the solution to replace the electricity currently coming from carbon-emitting and  particulate polluting diesel generators by providing affordable, clean power on demand.

Q4. Are competitors in your sector focused on similar technologies?

Most battery energy storage projects to date have relied on Lithium-ion (LI-ion) technology, which can help smooth brief fluctuations in generation.  LI-ion technologies bring operational and practical drawbacks including risk of fire, reliance upon critical minerals and degradation, which make them less than ideal for grid-scale storage.

ESS products use iron flow redox technology which, being water-based, are inherently safe.  Moreover, the absence of critical minerals in the making of our batteries means we avoid the supply chain constraints and geo-politics associated with sourcing Li-ion and its constituent materials, providing safe and sustainable energy storage manufactured using Earth-abundant iron, salt and water.

ESS technology is commercially available today, with backers and partners including Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Honeywell, SB Energy and many other utilities and commercial energy customers worldwide.

Q5. How important is reliability and scale in energy storage solutions?

Reliability is critical when considering energy storage solutions to ensure the reliability and resilience of the grid. Society has grown accustomed to having reliable, resilient electricity at all times.  Thus, as the world transitions to greater use of renewable energy and energy storage, reliability of the systems are needed to ensure reliability of the grid. Given the massive challenge the world faces in de-carbonizing the grid through renewables, scalability is key to meet customer project needs as well as the needs of entire countries. ESS systems leverage an iron-based electrolyte with an inherently low-cost entitlement, significantly improving project economics as scale increases.

Q6. How do we get more people interested in renewables?

The best way to ensure interest in renewables and the green transition, is to highlight positive outcomes of successful clean energy projects. Clean energy technologies are no longer theoretical – they are being deployed, at scale, today.

For example, ESS recently commissioned the first six units delivered to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California. This system is part of our partnership agreement with SMUD to deploy 2 GWh of energy storage across their system and enable the achievement of their 2030 Clean Energy Vision. More recently, ESS signed an initial agreement with LEAG, a major German energy provider, to build a 50 MW / 500 MWh iron

flow battery system at the Boxberg lignite power plant to help it transition from coal to clean energy. This project is expected to displace 50,000 tons of coal mined and burned daily with clean, renewable energy and eliminate 20 million tonnes of CO2 annually.  By sharing the real-life benefits that renewable projects have on improving air quality and lowering carbon emissions, the public will become more interested in renewables and clean energy and businesses and organisations may be encouraged to enter into similar projects or initiatives.

Q7. How can publications, such as Eco Voice, play their part in promoting sustainability in your business sector?

Publications and influencers can promote sustainability by continuing to highlight the need  for green technology to be implemented for the world to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 (the goal called for in the Paris Agreement to keep global warming to no more than 1.5°C). In addition, sharing the good news about innovative projects and breakthroughs in clean energy that are happening every day will support ongoing progress and pave the way for
accelerated deployment of the clean energy technology that the world needs to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.


First published in 2003, Eco Voice is your go-to publication for sustainability news in Australia. Eco Voice prides itself as an independent news platform with a clear focus on sustainability, with articles coming from a diverse range of contributors – all levels of government, corporations, not-for-profits, community groups, small to medium sized businesses, universities, research organisations, together with input from international sources. Eco Voice values community, conservation and commerce. Eco Voice is a media partner of the prestigious Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards – The Peak Sustainability Awards.


At ESS (NYSE: GWH), our mission is to accelerate global decarbonization by providing safe, sustainable, long-duration energy storage that powers people, communities, and businesses with clean, renewable energy anytime and anywhere it’s needed. As more renewable energy is added to the grid, long-duration energy storage is essential to providing the reliability and resiliency we need when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing. Our technology uses earth-abundant iron, salt and water to deliver environmentally safe solutions capable of providing up to 12 hours of flexible energy capacity for commercial and utility-scale energy storage applications. Established in 2011, ESS Inc. enables project developers, independent power producers, utilities and other large energy users to deploy reliable, sustainable long-duration energy storage solutions.

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