DOE launches 10-year energy storage ‘challenge’

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Department of Energy yesterday announced a 10-year initiative aimed at accelerating the development and commercialization of energy storage technologies.

Dubbed the “Energy Storage Grand Challenge,” the effort looks to leverage the department’s research and development expertise across the national laboratory complex to help bring down costs and extend storage times for a technology sometimes hailed by advocates as the “holy grail” to combat climate change.

“Energy storage is key to capturing the full value of our diverse energy resources,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement, adding that the focus of the initiative would “address the technology development, commercialization, manufacturing, valuation, and workforce challenges to position the U.S. for global leadership in the energy storage technologies of the future.”

Brouillette was set to unveil the challenge at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas yesterday, but he canceled his appearance to return to Washington, D.C., to participate in White House deliberations concerning the Iran conflict.

The challenge follows a $158 million proposal attached to DOE’s fiscal 2020 budget request to coordinate an Advanced Energy Storage Initiative across the department’s research areas.

Among the goals of the effort, DOE said it would “establish ambitious, achievable performance goals, and a comprehensive R&D portfolio to achieve them.”

The goals of the challenge also include the development of “best-in-class models, data, and analysis to inform the most effective value proposition and use cases for storage technologies” as well as research to “design new technologies to strengthen U.S. manufacturing and recyclability, and to reduce dependence on foreign sources of critical material,” according to DOE.

What those goals are still needs to be determined, DOE said.

The push to define them will start “soon” with a request for information on the key questions and issues the challenge should address, it said.

In addition, DOE plans to hold “a series of workshops with key stakeholders to share information about various storage technologies, learn more about current barriers to deployment, and help shape the work that will bring those technologies to market,” the department said in a news release.

Grid-scale storage — be it battery technology or closed-loop hydro projects — has the potential to help solve some of the intermittence problems associated with renewable energy.

A 10-year challenge to bring down costs and make it easier to deploy a technology has precedents at DOE. The Obama administration in 2011 launched a 10-year SunShot Initiative, which saw solar costs decrease by 75% over a decade.