Note: At the time of this discussion, Faith Martinez Smith was a Policy Analyst at ClearPath, managing the organization’s energy storage, geothermal, and hydropower portfolios.
Grid-scale energy storage is critical for decarbonizing our economy and merits high-profile attention from our policymakers. Storage is technology agnostic—it can be used with any generation technology, provides ancillary services, and can reduce demand charges. As climate change policy continues to take center stage, the commercialization of U.S. energy storage technologies can play a pivotal role in enabling higher integration of variable renewable resources (wind and solar power) and addressing grid reliability. Thus far, the storage sector has not received the policy or financial support needed for rapid grid-scale deployment. This must be corrected if we are to adequately address grid reliability and the variability of renewable resources. This is why it is encouraging that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC), which is meant to turbocharge energy storage technology development.
The Energy Storage Grand Challenge will create research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) opportunities and eventually spur commercialization of new energy storage technologies. Currently, energy storage initiatives are spread across DOE in multiple program offices; the grand challenge will coordinate these efforts to push energy storage technologies to market. In tandem, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will host the Grid Storage Launchpad, which is meant to combine all relevant energy storage RD&D projects at the lab to catalyze commercialization opportunities.
The challenge follows a firm pathway forged by other “moonshot” initiatives to drive down costs and improve technology development. We at ClearPath believe the challenge will help drive grid scale-storage technologies to market as we seek to decarbonize our economy—starting with the electric power sector. For example, there are promising long-duration storage technologies, such as modified pumped storage, thermal energy storage systems, and novel mechanical storage that could directly benefit from increased funding under this program. The grand challenge has the potential to help provide technical assistance and potentially provide much-needed funding opportunities for pilot and demonstration projects.