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Four ways to think about energy storage

We've kicked around energy storage this week and it's appropriate to finish up the week's focus with a few points straight from the horse's mouth: four large California utilities that last week shared their thinking with the California Energy Commission. (Two were large municipal utilities, two were investor owned.) Their points weren't exactly news but certainly deserve a wider audience.

I encourage you to look over the four utilities' (and other parties') presentations through the link above or through the specific links below, as they contain much food for thought.

The presentations were based around three key questions:

  • How does the role of energy storage differ from the utility or market perspective?
  • Who should own grid connected energy storage?
  • How will California's utilities implement the energy storage development, demonstration and deployment plan for meeting AB 2514 requirements?


Rather than trot out four utilities' answers to three questions, I'll just share a few standout comments that reveal current thinking by these utilities, now driven by a legislative mandate to explore storage options.

First, it was good to hear a theme emerge that both simplifies a potentially complicated subject and encourages me that utilities are acting thoughtfully in this area.

"Energy storage is not a single application or technology," according to San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

"Identifying where and how storage may be used on the electric system (i.e., applications) is a logical and ideal starting point for discussions about storage," according to Southern California Edison. "'Storage' as a unified concept is impractical and misleading."

"The focus should be on the cost effectiveness of benefits delivered," according to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). "We shouldn't pursue storage for storage's sake, we should pursue the value it provides. Other technologies such as renewables, energy efficiency and load control may provide equivalent value more cost effectively."

On that question—is storage really an answer to real-world needs or would existing alternatives meet the same requirements?—Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) had the following thoughts: First, identify the need, which is technology neutral. Then use a competitive process to determine the best resource to meet that need.

All the utilities were of one mind on the question of mandates.

"Do not create a set aside for storage," PG&E said. "Set asides lead to sub-optimal solutions and higher customer costs."

Further, "wide-scale deployment of energy storage technologies is not yet mature," said SDG&E. "Energy storage systems are currently expensive. Energy storage systems should be assessed on a case-by-case basis."

Readers, take any angle you'd like. Or aim for the editor.

Phil Carson
Intelligent Utility Daily



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