Electricity is hard to store. It needs to be used as it is being generated. Traditionally, batteries have played the role of holding power until it is needed. But there’s a huge chasm between battery power for a flashlight or a computer and battery power for a manufacturing production line. The Duracell bunny is not that big!
Batteries are not the only way to store electricity. Pumped hydro and compressed air are just two examples of Electric Energy Storage (EES) systems. Along with advances in battery storage, these systems are in a rapid development phase. The race to industrial scale commercialization is driven by an expectation that electricity storage will play a key role in the transition to a cleaner, more versatile electric power system.
Renewable power from solar and wind can be unpredictable and variable. Electric storage can hold that power and dispatch it when needed or when prices are higher. Electricity storage has other benefits. It can enhance grid stability during ramping, assist black start from a power loss, optimize demand response and provide voltage support. The benefits of electricity storage are such that EES systems are starting to be adopted by utilities.
However, emerging electric storage technologies are also experiencing barriers to wide scale use. They are still largely confined to pilot projects where research and demonstration can quantify benefits. The high capital cost of installing energy storage is a big barrier. Regulatory barriers may also prevent energy storage from tapping into multiple revenue streams. Once these barriers can be overcome, the business case for EES implementation will change.
The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) is currently undertaking a full value assessment of EES in Canada, using a techno-economic modelling framework. When it is released at the end of April, the CERI study will provide insights into market opportunities for different storage technologies. It will highlight the attributes different technologies should have, in order to provide intended services. The research will place the storage options within the context of the potential service, not to assess whether electricity storage service is needed.
Every successful technology goes through a process before wide adoption. Once a tipping point is met, the economies of scale in production drive prices to affordable levels and the transition is achieved. The CERI study will identify where, on that continuum, EES is positioned today.
For our Ontario readers, Allan Fogwill, CERI CEO will be presenting this study on May 3. Click here to join us for breakfast and learn what it will take for energy storage to help Ontario achieve its energy, environment, and economic goals.