White House drives effort to boost storage, renewables

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 17, 2016

The White House yesterday issued a flurry of executive actions and private-sector commitments to boost renewable energy and more than double energy storage by decade’s end.

In total, the actions stretching from the Department of Energy to Microsoft Corp.’s data centers are expected to result in at least 1.3 gigawatts of additional storage in the next five years and potentially lead to $1 billion in investments, the White House said. By comparison, approximately 226 megawatts of energy storage capacity came online last year, bringing cumulative installed capacity to 500 MW, according to GTM Research.

The White House is hosting a summit today with energy companies, cities and regulators to discuss renewable energy and energy storage. Simultaneously, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report calling for a “reimagining of the management of the grid.” The study concludes, for example, that energy storage needs to be able to bid into different grid management markets “in a way that captures their full value.”

Ravi Manghani, a senior energy storage analyst for GTM, said the announcement is significant partly because “it’s the executive push for energy storage and is bound to have spill-over effects beyond the 33 actions and anticipated $1 billion in investments that will result from these commitments.”

“Secondly, and the more tangible impact is the efforts of the U.S. military to achieve resiliency through energy storage. It’s no secret that the military has strategic and security value for resiliency, and the Navy and Air Force approaching these goals through storage is meaningful,” Manghani said. In a research note, GTM said the commitments could provide an “upward bump in the storage outlook.” It has projected annual storage deployments to grow to 2.1 gigawatts by 2021.

The administration said the U.S. General Services Administration would issue a request for information about potential storage options, particularly for emergency backup and for managing peak electricity loads. The Navy and Air Force simultaneously announced support for multiple projects, including a 100-MW battery project at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach in California and a microgrid project at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

The Air Force recently unveiled a new slogan “mission assurance is energy assurance” with support for large-scale renewable projects at bases (Greenwire, April 13).

Additionally, the Department of Energy is rolling out multiple pilot projects and partnerships. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory committed today to releasing a study this August examining increased renewable energy to the Eastern Interconnection grid. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory pledged to release an analysis by this fall on demand response in California. And the U.S. Energy Information Administration said it would launch a pilot project next year measuring end-use energy consumption in American households.

Outside of the federal government, 16 utilities, state governments and companies made additional pledges. Those included:

  • A commitment from Duke Energy Corp. to deploy at least 5 MW of energy storage near Asheville, N.C.
  • A $10 million plan in Massachusetts for demonstration projects and a study examining benefits of bringing more storage into the state.
  • A $3 billion pledge from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to support grid resiliency and distributed energy resources.
  • A partnership between Con Edison Inc. and Siemens AG to “make available detailed data for use by consumers and renewable energy providers for planning and economic analysis purposes.”
  • The first grid-scale battery energy storage system in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator region from Indianapolis Power & Light Co.
  • Pledges from Invenergy LLC to double its deployment of advanced energy storage; Sunrun Inc. to expand its home solar and storage package outside of Hawaii to three states within three years; Microsoft and Primus Power to launch a pilot program with storage at Microsoft’s data centers; and Opower to scale its demand-response operations to 200,000 additional households.

Manghani said that in some cases power companies were already on a path to grow storage investments due to state mandates and “strategic business decisions.” Microsoft and Facebook, for example, announced support for a coalition this May to double the deployment of new corporate renewable energy within a decade (E&ENews PM, May 12).

Yet, Scott Clausen, research and policy associate at the American Council on Renewable Energy, said the large number of commitments could boost renewables and storage in regions where they have not been as prevalent, as well as help drive down technology costs.

The announcement comes as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is seeking input on “barriers” to energy storage (Greenwire, April 19). The Energy Storage Association urged FERC in its submitted comments last month to direct grid operators to incorporate tariff language facilitating energy storage in “all market services.” Critics of the current system say there needs to be a clearer definition of storage, which can be classified as either infrastructure or energy supply, among other things.

In a statement, the association said it supported “the administration’s efforts to ensure fair and competitive market access for energy storage technologies,” adding that “we must ensure that we develop regulatory frameworks that do not get out-paced by the rapid advancement of technology. Markets need to be structured to reward system performance and not favor incumbent interests.”