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  • The buzz around battery storage: Worth all the hype?

     

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    Can intelligent battery storage make buildings and the grid operate more efficiently?

     

    By Anthony Harrison  |  Manager, Regulatory Affairs

    Utilities, state regulators, clean-tech experts, and energy geeks recently convened in San Francisco at the Greentech Media event, ‘California’s Distributed Energy Future,’ to discuss challenges, questions, and strategies to consider when integrating distributed resources such as solar and battery  storage onto the grid. The conversations I heard at the conference were some of the many recent indications that energy storage has gained tremendous traction amongst the electricity industry’s most influential thought-leaders.

    An audience survey asking the question: What technology will have the greatest impact on the growth of distributed energy resources in CA? resulted in 45% of respondents selecting ‘energy storage’ over technologies such as solar, load controls, and electric vehicles. Meanwhile, 60% of attendees believe that energy storage will be the primary solution to the duck-curve, a widely-used graph demonstrating the imbalance of grid supply and demand that occurs with high penetrations of renewables.

    A recent Utility Dive article  authored by the the Former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), touted battery  storage as a revolutionizing technology that is key to a clean energy grid. He points to the fact that storage devices “instantaneously respond to signals from controlling software” to provide a multitude of services, such as peak shaving and absorbing excess solar generation, that maximize the value to both customers and the grid.  Similarly, a Rocky Mountain Institute report, The Economics of Battery Storage   demonstrates the unique ability of distributed energy storage to provide numerous benefits to multiple stakeholders using a single asset.

    Energy experts aren’t the only ones realizing the potential of battery storage. In regions where energy companies, grid operators, and policy makers have nurtured adoption of customer-sited storage, energy customers have responded in astounding numbers.

    • More than 1,000 customer-sited battery storage systems are in operation today, primarily in California, Hawaii, and New York.
    • According to Stem analysts, an estimated 30% of Fortune 500 companies have adopted or are actively evaluating intelligent battery storage technology.
    • According to GTM Research,  more than 700 megawatts of distributed energy storage will be deployed in the U.S. between 2014 and 2020 alone.

    At Stem, we’ve always believed in the power of distributed battery  storage to change the way energy is distributed and consumed. It’s a win-win for energy providers and consumers – utilities gain a fast-acting, flexible, cost-effective resource that can serve the same capacity of a centralized generation asset while also helping maintain balance on the power grid. In regions with a high penetration of renewables, such as California and Hawaii, this is critical. Meanwhile, energy consumers – who expect more choices and control over their energy costs and sources than ever before – can now automatically cut electricity costs and participate in revenue-generating electricity markets simply by shifting when energy is pulled from the grid.

    Battery  storage has earned its time in the spotlight, and I encourage all industry stakeholders – from policy makers to energy companies – to leverage this recent attention and give storage the support it deserves. A key component of unlocking the full potential for battery  storage lies with its ability to actively participate and provide services to each of the three stakeholder groups identified in the Rocky Mountain Institute Report:  Customers, utilities, and transmission system operators. Policy makers and regulators should look at ways to remove barriers for aggregating distributed storage, allowing  it  to  participate as a reliable and cost-effective resource.

    These conversations have already begun in major markets such as California and New York. With the progression of intelligent battery  storage technology, coupled with the changing landscape of empowered energy consumers, I expect discussions around how to best enable and deploy these resources at scale to become part of a national narrative on our distributed energy future.