Boston – Energy storage is poised to play a growing role in transitioning the electric grid to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, according to a new white paper released today by the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center.
“As renewable energy production rises, energy storage is increasingly becoming a ‘go-to’ option for utilities, businesses and homeowners,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “The smart use of energy storage will help make Massachusetts’ transition to clean, renewable energy possible.”
The report, Making Sense of Energy Storage: How Storage Technologies Can Support a Renewable Future, provides an overview of energy storage technologies, including batteries, thermal storage, flywheels, air compressors and others. It also illustrates how energy storage measures have benefited consumers and the electric system by avoiding the expensive construction of new transmission lines, improving resiliency after storms and maintaining reliability in California after the largest gas leak in U.S. history.
Several communities in Massachusetts are already using energy storage to increase the deployment of renewable energy, reduce energy costs for residents, and ensure a reliable power supply for critical facilities during natural disasters.
An energy storage system at the site of the former Mt. Tom coal plant in Holyoke will store energy from a 5.7 megawatt solar farm and provide electricity to the grid during peak demand periods. Holyoke Gas & Electric expects that energy storage will reduce the strain on the city’s electrical distribution network, extending the life of the system.
In 2016, the Sterling Municipal Light Department installed a 2 megawatt, 3.9 megawatt-hour energy storage system, which is expected to cut energy costs by at least $400,000 per year for residents by reducing the need to purchase power from the grid during times of peak demand. Together with a solar array, the energy storage system can power the Sterling police station and dispatch center for up to 12 days during an outage.
Declining costs, combined with a growing recognition of the multiple benefits storage can offer have led more policy makers to consider storage into energy planning and regulation. As of last March, 140 state-level policies and regulations related to the utility side of energy storage were pending or in place across the country.
A number of states, including Massachusetts, have established energy storage targets. Advocates have called on Massachusetts’ leaders to set more ambitious energy storage targets for 2025 and 2030 and provide additional incentives for the deployment of energy storage projects.
"More than 300 new storage projects were added to the grid over the last decade, and at least 300 more are already being planned or built,” said Elizabeth Berg, a Frontier Group analyst, and co-author of the white paper. “Our report shows that these technologies cannot only aid our transition to a renewable energy system, but can provide many other benefits to the electric grid as well."
The report makes a number of recommendations to policy makers, including:
- Removing barriers to energy storage by clarifying and improving grid connection and permitting policies;
- Designing rates and energy markets to capture the full value of energy storage, including grid reliance, avoided transmission and distribution costs, and avoided peak demand costs;
- Creating programs and incentives for homes and businesses to adopt storage; and
- Establishing targets and benchmarks to encourage utilities to use energy storage throughout their system.
The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting Massachusetts’ air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help Bay Staters make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.