Progress on Energy Storage Can Expedite New York’s Shift to Clean Energy

Media Contacts
Heather Leibowitz

Environment New York Research and Policy Center

New York, NY– People have known for decades that virtually unlimited energy resources like solar and wind energy are cleaner and healthier than energy produced by dirty fuels. But, utilities and consumers occasionally express concern about the variability and dependability of those renewable sources. Those concerns are fading with the emergence of game-changing energy storage technologies. According to a new white paper released today by Environment New York, the rapid growth of less expensive wind and solar energy and the plummeting costs of energy storage have led to a six-fold increase in energy storage capacity (excluding pumped hydropower) over the past decade.  

“As renewable energy production rises, energy storage is increasingly becoming a ‘go-to’ option for utilities, businesses and homeowners,” said Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York.But many people are still unaware that it’s ready for prime time. We need to educate our policymakers about how the smart use of energy storage can make our transition to clean, renewable energy possible.”

The report, Making Sense of Energy Storage: How Storage Technologies Can Support a Renewable Energy Future, provides an overview of energy storage technologies, including batteries, thermal storage and others.  It also illustrates how energy storage measures have benefited consumers and the electric system by preventing expensive construction of new transmission lines, improving resilience after storms and maintaining reliability. For example, Con Edison is using demand management, renewable generation, and efficiency measures to avoid building a $1.2 billion new substation to serve increasing demand in Brooklyn and Queens. One part of their demand management approach will involve utility storage.

“At Green Mountain Power in Vermont, we are working with customers and leading the way toward a new energy system that is more home, business and community-based, and leverages innovations like battery storage to drive down costs for all customers while improving reliability,” said GMP Vice President of Innovation Josh Castonguay. “Combining solar and battery storage is a game changer and opens up so many possibilities for customers and expanding renewable generation. It can be used during outages to keep the lights on and to help reduce peak energy demand, directly reducing costs for customers.”

Declining costs, combined with a growing recognition of the multiple benefits storage can offer has led more policymakers 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 CA, MA, and NY, have established energy storage targets. States, ranging from Washington, to New Mexico, to Minnesota; are among the growing number of states where utility regulators are considering storage. Additionally, the state of New York has set the largest statewide energy storage target yet: a goal of 1500 MW by 2025. And in 2016, New York City became the first city to set a storage goal. The city set a goal of installing 100 MWh of storage by 2020.

“We can capture the virtually unlimited energy from the sun and the wind and save it to use later,” said Leibowitz. “And New York- both the city and the state- have set forward-thinking goals that show that the clean energy transition is feasible.”

“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 also makes a number of recommendations to policymakers, 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;

  • Adopting programs and incentivizing homes and businesses to adopt storage; and

  • Establishing storage targets and benchmarks that encourage utilities to build and utilize energy storage throughout their system.