Renewables and Storage: A Winning Combination

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In what seems like a pivotal moment for the renewable energy and battery storage industries – Kathy Weiss – a senior vice president for First Solar – recently pronounced in EnergyWire that “We really have to get over the ITC and PTC [for renewable energy]…Let them phase down, and let’s have market certainty around them and make sure that whatever the next real policy is, it’s a sustainable policy.” And, Greg Wetstone, the president of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), noted “Everything we see suggests that a [battery] storage tax credit could unleash so much growth and really transform the grid.” 

Over last several months, Energy Fairness has not only illustrated the affordability and reliability of utility-scale renewables, but also discussed necessity of energy storage if renewable energy is going to continue to move from a peripheral to mainstream electric energy resource in an affordable and reliable fashion.    

In May we discussed the potential of the Heinrich-Gardner Battery investment tax credit legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate.  And, we recently discussed the promising innovations of battery storage technology and continued importance of pumped hydropower storage to further transform renewables like solar and wind from a complementary to mainline source of electric power.  

The future of this energy storage revolution became more apparent in March when Florida Power and Light unveiled plans to build the world’s largest solar-powered battery system. This announcement by Florida’s largest electric utility was a harbinger to a report issued this month by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which portrays a very bright future for energy storage.  

The report – Advances in Electricity Storage Suggest Rapid Disruption of U.S. Electricity Sector — concedes that current the battery storage online of 866 megawatts is miniscule in comparison to the 1,096,424 megawatts of the total installed electric power capacity in the U.S. However, it goes on to say that “they are significant, and so is the enthusiasm with which the technology is being embraced by the U.S. utility sector.”  Moreover, in a statement that clearly asserts that battery storage is not a “one hit wonder” the report proclaims that “the hype surrounding energy storage occasionally has run ahead of reality, but no longer.  The disruption inherent in the technology’s potential…is taking hold across the U.S. The utility sector as a result will never be the same.” 

Whether it’s the largest investor owned utility or the smallest electric cooperative, what the IEEFA’s report makes clear is that “the use of storage is being adopted across the board, by the biggest and the smallest utilities, by member-owned co-ops and investor-owned companies…this broad backing is driving disruption.”  

Hopefully, for the consumer, the adoption of storage technologies won’t disrupt the affordability and reliability of their electricity. There are more than a few anecdotes of the advances in energy storage technologies being utilized in lieu of costly infrastructure upgrades. 

In Punkin Center, AZ , Arizona Public Service (APS) has installed a battery storage system instead of upgrading a 20 mile distribution line over hilly terrain into the Tonto National Forest. The choice to go with a battery system instead of a traditional infrastructure upgrade affected affordability in the best way possible for ratepayers.  It was half the cost of upgrading the distribution line. And, reliability was enhanced also because it took only 12 months to finish the battery project, which is less than half the time it would have taken to upgrade the distribution line.  

Energy Fairness’ mantra throughout our 11-year existence has been to have an honest conversation with policymakers and consumers on what it takes to maintain a reliable and affordable supply of energy. What is clear from the advances made in battery storage technology coupled with the proliferation of utility-scale renewable projects is that these two developments illustrate the best course of action to keep energy affordable and reliable to the consumer as the renewable energy evolution continues.