Perspectives

Electricity storage

Technologies, impacts, and prospects

The electricity system in the US may be on the cusp of a period of more rapid change than at any time in the past 25 years or more. The rising role of renewable generation, both grid-scale and distributed; tightening emission limits on fossil-fuel based generation; the acceleration of smart grid deployment; and the emergence of multiple options for electricity consumers to better manage overall consumption and the shape of their load, together point to a very different landscape than in the past.

Electricity storage solutions

​One important barrier to these developments achieving their full potential has always been the absence of economic and reliable electricity storage solutions. But there appears to be an acceleration in research and development of various forms of electricity storage which offer the promise of more economic deployment at scale in the near term, bringing load-shifting and electricity reliability within reach of more and more utilities and consumers.

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Technological advancements in energy storage

I​n the past, the main options for electricity storage at grid scale have been pumped hydro storage where water is pumped uphill during off-peak hours when electricity is cheap and then released during peak hours to provide electricity when it is expensive, and compressed air storage, which achieves similar load-shifting objectives by compressing air in caverns, then releasing it to drive turbines. However, in recent years, both the need and the technological solutions for electricity storage have been growing, driven by the proliferation of intermittent renewable electricity generation—primarily wind power and solar power—both at grid scale and distributed at building or local scale. In particular, the development of battery storage technologies targeted at distributed applications have also been facilitated by the increasing focus on both hybrid and all-electric vehicles in recent years, in which similar battery arrays could be used in stationary applications.

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What does the future hold?

​This paper examines the state of maturity of the various new technologies under development, the likely timing and impact of their deployment, and the implications for electricity providers and consumers of all sizes.

Questions asked:
  • How and how much will the electricity system be transformed by wider and more economic availability of electricity storage solutions?
  • Which technologies will be best suited for which applications?
  • How long might it take for widespread deployment of electricity storage in the US?

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Energy storage: Tracking the technologies that will transform the power sector

Interested in taking a deeper dive into energy storage technologies that will transform the power sector? View the earlier report here.

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