California Moves Forward on Energy Storage

Benz flywheel circa 1885
Benz flywheel circa 1885

The California Public Utilities Commission issued a proposed decision this week that will guide power companies towards an increased utilization of energy storage. The proposed framework lays out both a timeline and a set of goals that will, according to Energy Storage North America (ESNA), “jump start the market for energy storage solutions” in this country.

“This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for,” said Janice Lin, Managing Partner of Strategen Consulting  and Chair of ESNA’s upcoming conference. (See Lin’s editorial in Triple Pundit here.)

The announcement comes just in time for the Energy Storage North America (ESNA) Conference and Expo 2013, at which CPUC Commissioner Carla Peterman, who authored the proposed decision, will be the keynote speaker. This will be the first conference in North America specifically focused on energy storage.

  • The proposed framework outlines specific, year-by-year energy storage procurement targets for Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Pacific Gas and Electric. This is expected to generate some 1.325 gigawatts of energy storage capacity by 2020.
  • The proposed targets are designed to increase between 30% and 55% every two years, creating a growing demand for storage.
  • Specific functions are not mandated. Utilities are free to employ energy storage for anything from capacity, ancillary services, and peak shaving, which in turn will provide real-world data on performance benefits.
  • Utilities will be required to procure at least 50% of the storage capacity from independent developers across all segments of the grid via existing procurement processes or “all-source” solicitations starting in 2014. This will help ensure diversity of supply and technology.
  • The first solicitation for new energy storage capacity will be required to occur no later than December 1, 2014

The advantages of incorporating energy storage into grid systems containing renewables are manifold. First, they are cleaner and more efficient, primarily due to their ability to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuel powered “peaker plants” that are standing by to provide brief bursts of power when the system demand exceeds baseline capacity. When supply exceeds demand, like when when there is more power being produced, by renewables, for example, than the grid needs at that particular moment, energy storage systems make sure that clean power is not wasted. This makes for better utilization of clean, renewable power, and, by extension, less pollution and carbon emissions. It can also mean improved system performance, as many storage systems (e.g. batteries, ultra-capacitors) are instantaneous, as opposed to peaker plants that require time to ramp up.

Peaker emissions
Peaker emissions

There is also tremendous innovation occurring around the idea of storage on both sides of the meter. Whether it’s consumers heating their water a little more, or chilling their freezers a little more during periods of low demand, or utilities installing any of a number of technologies ranging from batteries, to flywheels, to pumped storage, these constantly improving innovations are adding considerable value both to our economy and our environment.

[Image credit: Andreas Praefcke: Wikimedia commons]

RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining romp that is currently being adapted for the big screen. Now available on Kindle.

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RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact: