Energy storage is needed on an industrial or grid scale for three main reasons. The first is to “balance load” – to shift energy consumption into the future, often by several hours – so that more existing generating capacity is used efficiently. The second reason is to “bridge” power – in other words, to ensure there is no break in service during the seconds-to-minutes required to switch from one power generation source to another. Finally, power quality management – the control of voltage and frequency to avoid damaging sensitive equipment – is an increasing concern that storage can alleviate whenever needed, for a few seconds or less, many times each day.
Yes, energy storage systems are “fuel neutral.” Whether electricity is generated from oil, gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, or other sources, energy storage captures excess electricity at high efficiencies for optimal use during outages, peak hours, or whenever effective grid management is a challenge.
The primary benefits are:
Risk of Power Outages: Today’s electricity grid is increasingly vulnerable to threats from nature, terrorists, and accidents. Millions of families and businesses are victimized by outages (both sustained and monentary) each year. Power outages cost as much as $200 billion annually, according to the Department of Energy, while hitting the job-creating commercial and industrial sectors the hardest.
Saving Consumers Money: Energy storage can also let customers avoid premium pricing that utilities charge during times of peak demand.
Clean Energy Integration and Energy Independence: Energy storage supports the integration of renewable energy generation. Energy storage can also help cut emissions as it takes more of the load off fossil-fuel generation. Peaking generation is one of the most costly and wasteful aspects of the grid, so making existing generation go further and avoiding capital and resource-intensive new facilities would make a significant contribution to our environmental priorities.
Economy and Jobs: In addition to reducing economic losses from major and minor annual outages, experts say that energy storage will be a critical technology in the electricity grids of the future..
Energy storage can lead to cost savings in two main ways. The first, is by lowering the overall cost of providing electricity. The second, is by allowing customers to avoid premium pricing (or “peak demand”). Industry insiders call this saving money on “both sides of the electric meter.” But broader energy storage deployment can save consumers money in additional ways. Shorter outages for residents after a storm, or an equipment failure can help save not only money but lives. And, fewer outages overall lead to less economic losses.
Yes. Energy storage has been a part of our electricity grid since the 1930s. In fact, energy storage enjoys a safety record that is similar or better than other electricity generation, distribution, or management methods.
During times of peak electricity demand – like when air conditioners ramp up on hot days – many utilities charge customers extra since they have to ramp up expensive additional electricity production to meet the demand. These charges are called “time-of-use” or “peak” prices since they are tied solely to WHEN a customer uses the electricity. For example, many households today run appliances like dishwashers and laundry machines on six-hour delays or in the middle of the night to avoid these higher electricity prices and save money on their utility bills. Energy storage works in similar ways, but since energy storage lets customers decide when to buy and when to use the power, a customer is freed from premium charges. Customers naturally purchase the electricity at off-peak prices for use during peaks, which is like getting an airline flight on Thanksgiving or a rush-hour subway pass at an off-peak price. For residential and especially for industrial customers, these savings can be significant.
Yes. Energy storage has no direct effect on emissions. It requires no pipelines. Its systems typically require a minimal footprint. It recycles electricity. But, energy storage will also help cut emissions as it takes more of the load off traditional generation or allows it to operate in a more efficient manner.