French energy giant Total said it has signed a research agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, to develop a low-cost, long-life battery, which enables the storage of solar power.

The agreement, valued at $4m over five years, is part of the MIT Energy Initiative.

“The ability to store power is a major challenge and an essential ingredient for the scale up and widespread deployment of affordable solar power,” Total said in a statement.

“Total’s support for research in the storage of solar energy has the potential to be a game-changer. [We] look forward to working with them to develop low-cost storage options that could enable affordable, reliable energy from renewable sources,” said the director of the MIT Energy Initiative programme, Ernest Moniz.

Total has been working with solar energy since 1983 through its interest in the two companies Tenesol and Photovoltech.