Opinion

Energy storage is vital to our power grid

An illustration of an energy-producing, energy-storage system. (Image: petrmalinak, via Shutterstock)

Our energy grid is facing a shortfall.

Not of power, we have plenty of that.

Not even of clean power. We actually produce so much solar and wind energy at times that California has to pay other states millions of dollars to take it off our hands.

Where we are truly lacking is in energy storage.

There are current and new emerging storage technologies to help address our need for storage that can hold very large amounts of energy. The problem is we don’t currently have the right processes in place to get these types of projects built.

The CPUC found that in the next six years, we need to develop up to 2,200 megawatts of new long duration energy storage.

Keeping the lights on in our homes and offices requires a sophisticated balance of energy supply and demand across a massive grid. California’s march toward 100 percent clean energy has created new challenges.

Right now, grid operators can call in fast-ramping fossil fuel plants to cover energy shortfalls.

But what happens when we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels? We will need more renewable energy to ramp up production as well as large amounts of energy storage to balance the ups and downs of different weather patterns.

Recent modeling by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) found that in the next six years, we need to develop up to 2,200 megawatts of new long duration energy storage. This means storage technology with the ability to provide energy to the grid for more than eight hours at a time. That’s approximately enough electricity to power more than 1 million homes.

Currently, the CPUC process relies on more than 40 different electric providers throughout the state to independently develop the necessary long duration storage infrastructure. But without a coherent, unified plan for energy storage, California can either say goodbye to its clean energy targets or see possible rolling blackouts on cloudy, windless days and higher energy costs. These scenarios are not acceptable.

We must act now to avoid missing our climate goals. Even with a legislative session truncated by a global pandemic, we can’t forget the importance of the other lingering global crisis – climate change. Assembly Member Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) has introduced legislation that will put forth an immediate and achievable plan to develop new clean energy solutions. Development of these storage projects will create good-paying jobs while bolstering grid reliability for our state.

Assembly Bill 2255 will keep California on track to meeting our clean energy goals and commitments to the climate while providing a boost to our economy. It’s the right solution at the right time. We can provide reliable, renewable energy to the state, but not if we delay.

Ed’s Note: Julia Prochnik is executive director of the Long Duration Energy Storage Association of California.

 


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