Clean Energy Leaders Meet in Charlotte to Tout Capacity, Demand for Energy Storage

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Spotlight on Storage features commentary on new and innovative developments in the U.S. energy storage industry from ESA staff, members, and supporters.

ESA & NCSEA OP-ED

North Carolina was a hotbed of energy storage activity in 2016. So much so that the national trade association - the Energy Storage Association (ESA) - held its annual conference in Charlotte and the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) convened its first Energy Storage Working Group. There was great promise to open the market to more energy storage in North Carolina. And now they’re back.

Since 2016, energy storage around the world has grown exponentially, with capacity reaching six gigawatt-hours worldwide. As energy storage system prices continue to fall, our economy becomes more electrified and the cost of disruptions becomes more expensive, national research from Wood Mackenzie predicts more than a tenfold increase to at least 65 gigawatt-hours by 2022. What does this mean for North Carolina? The answer is up to us.

The state, working with the energy industry, is on the cusp of opening its market to more energy storage uses and benefits. A lot has happened in the two years since ESA was in North Carolina, and NCSEA is pleased to welcome ESA back to North Carolina this week for their annual Storage Uses, Deployment, Integration, and Operations (STUDIO) Conference in Charlotte.

Why is this important now? And why here in North Carolina? First, North Carolina is second in the nation for installed solar capacity. With more renewable energy systems, energy storage can address the potential short-term variability and predictability issues of renewable sources. Second, North Carolina is especially vulnerable to natural disasters, as Hurricanes Florence and Michael remind us. As disruptions to the grid become even more costly, consumer demands will increase for a flexible, resilient grid that they can afford. Finally, NC State University is about to release its much-anticipated Energy Storage Study that will lay out policy recommendations for North Carolina to consider, to increase energy storage deployment and realize its benefits.

In April 2016, NCSEA convened an Energy Storage Working Group of consumers, government, utilities, and industry to consider the ways in which energy storage could benefit the North Carolina energy system and economy. Over 18 months the group determined the need for data on the value of storage in the marketplace as well as the value of the service that energy storage provides. With this in mind, NCSEA worked with local partners and stakeholders to ensure that HB 589, signed into law in July 2017, included a provision for an Energy Storage Study. The study kicked off in January 2018 with three main goals:

  • To develop guidance that allows energy storage to be utilized for all its possible purposes;
  • To create a model for deploying energy storage that can be implemented across the Southeast; and
  • To identify any other considerations that impact energy storage deployment in North Carolina.

STUDIO’s arrival in Charlotte couldn’t be more timely. The event brings together industry experts to examine the practical ways to integrate energy storage projects and identify best practices in deploying safe and cost-effective storage to lower energy costs, reduce emissions and establish a more resilient electric grid. NCSEA is excited to see how the knowledge gained from the focus of this year’s conference, the implementation of a storage project and unlocking its full potential, will enhance our understanding of the results of the Energy Storage Study that will be released in December.

Energy storage is not only a smart decision for North Carolina’s electric grid, but it is also a financially sound decision for North Carolina businesses and utilities. Utilities across the United States, including Duke Energy, know that storage makes economic sense and are procuring it as a least-cost solution, particularly as a part of the distribution delivery system. This trend will only continue as more utilities and businesses gain experience with energy storage. Whether it’s behind the meter or on the utilities’ side of the electricity grid, utilities are part of the long-term planning for storage growth, the interconnection of systems to the grid, and the deployment itself. Utilities are included in ESA’s membership to collaborate and build opportunities for more storage across the United States.

Over the next several years, utilities and grid operators will invest billions of dollars in grid infrastructure, working to repair aging assets and modernize system capabilities. There is a clear choice to be made: either incrementally rebuild the grid with yesterday’s solution for infrastructure and assets or invest in today’s new technologies and strategies to deliver better outcomes at a lower cost. The choice to us is clear, and North Carolina has the opportunity to lead the nation for energy storage, continuing its tradition of innovation and leadership.

Kelly Speakes-Backman is the CEO of the Energy Storage Association, the national trade association for the U.S. energy storage industry.

Ivan Urlaub is the Executive Director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association. NCSEA is the leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to driving public policy and market development that creates clean energy jobs, economic opportunities and affordable energy options that benefit all North Carolinians.