Dennis Schroeder / NREL

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Energy Storage: Save it for Later

We're working to commit states across America to bold energy storage goals, which will help build a stronger, more resilient future for renewables.

When it comes to our energy systems, America is stuck in old ways of thinking. Electric utilities continue to propose building new fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines and gas plants, arguing that this dirty energy is the only way to meet electricity needs that fluctuate from hour to hour and season to season. And all too often, decision-makers believe them and approve these polluting projects.

But with today’s technology, America can replace all its dirty energy with clean, renewable sources.

This transition will require installing more solar panels and wind turbines, improving the efficiency of our homes and businesses, conserving more energy, and switching to electric technologies instead of burning fossil fuels.

It will also require the ability to store energy for later. And today's battery storage technologies, which continue to trend upward in efficiency and affordability, are ready for broad deployment.

Home energy storage system capturing energy from rooftop solar panels.
Roschetzky Photography via Shutterstock
What do we mean by energy storage?

There are two types of energy storage. Short-term storage can store energy for one to four hours on average and is often sited locally in the form of small batteries that can serve personal needs as well as supply the grid at peak times. Examples include the Tesla PowerWall and the batteries in electric vehicles. Short-term storage will help us store more power from the wind and sun and improve the reliability of the grid by supplying power locally when needed.

Long-term storage is capable of storing energy for longer periods of time, and is emerging in many forms as research progresses. Examples include trains that get pushed up a hill by solar energy and then release energy when they are allowed to roll down the hill. Long-term storage will help us harness larger amounts of energy produced at the utility scale by wind farms and solar arrays. It will also keep the energy stored for longer, more flexible amounts of time, enabling us to cleanly power our lives with 100% renewable energy.

Adding storage to new and existing solar energy in communities will make the supply of this clean, green energy “smoother” and more predictable — making it possible to realize the full potential of renewable power as a source that can meet all our electricity needs. That will bring health benefits, cost savings and more reliability in the face of potential blackouts and climate-related disasters.

It’s absurd that we’re still relying on dirty energy when today’s technology allows us to capture clean, renewable energy more affordably than ever before. It’s time to fully transition to clean power — and energy storage can get us there.

How can we get more energy storage on the grid across America?

We’re working to win state-level commitments to energy storage, such as those we’ve already won in Connecticut and Maine, through research, advocacy and organizing.

The best way to increase the amount of energy we’re able to store for later use is to set storage goals that aim high. That’s why we’re calling on states to set ambitious, enforceable targets for renewable energy storage to drive the growth we need.

Setting bold targets will spur the virtuous cycle of progress and, in turn, lead to policy changes that will set states up to reach their clean energy targets. We know this because we’ve seen the same story play out with solar energy in California and Massachusetts, and with renewable energy standards in dozens of states.

How we’ll win clean energy commitments

Environment America has the organizing and advocacy expertise to make this vision a reality: We’ve helped win commitments to 100% renewable power in California, New Mexico, Washington, Maine, Virginia and Oregon. This progress is proof that goal-setting for renewable energy can kick the “virtuous cycle” into gear.

We know we can win because public support is on our side. A new survey from 19 competitive U.S. House districts across the country revealed that 69% support across party lines for investments in clean energy such as wind and solar power by extending tax credits to spur innovation and manufacturing. With this momentum behind us, we will mobilize the support of multiple constituencies to convince state leadership to pass bills setting strong goals for energy storage.

We have a huge opportunity to set the stage for long-term success on renewables by passing these goals and eventually requirements for storage, but opposition from fossil fuel interests and utilities is as strong as ever. We need to overcome this now in order to set ourselves on track to hit our goal of 100% renewable energy by mid-century.

By passing goals for energy storage, we will spur the virtuous cycle of growth in technology to compliment new and existing wind and solar energy. More storage will mean more renewable energy at a more affordable rate, cleaner air in our communities, and a more resilient, reliable grid in the face of climate-related blackouts. It's a win for the environment and consumers in every way.

Support energy storage in your state

Tell your governor to commit to building a cleaner and more resilient grid with energy storage.