Long-Duration Energy Storage in a Decarbonized Future – Policy Gaps, Needs, and Opportunities

W. McNamara
Sandia National Laboratories,
United States

Keywords: long duration energy storage, policy, decarbonization


Decarbonization by definition is dependent on an increasing reliance on renewable energy, primarily wind and solar resources, that needs to be stored for longer durations to maintain electric grid reliability and provide operational flexibility to grid operators. In the United States, this drive toward a rapid transition to variable renewable resources (VREs) and away from traditional fossil-fuel generation has been dramatically bolstered by the continuing adoption by individual states of aggressive clean-energy, 100-percent renewables, or other decarbonization goals. Achieving full decarbonization within the U.S. will without question require an array of new energy storage (ES) technologies with longer duration to support the large scale integration of VREs, which will pose a number of new challenges, including power supply and demand imbalances, changes in distribution and transmission flow patterns; and increased occurrences of generation disturbances and voltage deviations. Despite the growing realization of the need for long duration energy storage (LDES) technologies, a persistent gap of policy levers at the federal and state level creates a vacuum in terms of defining how and where LDES technologies can be utilized to support the electric grid, along with an inadequate regulatory framework wherein these resources will need to be valued and compensated for the services they can provide. In fact, perhaps the greatest barrier for LDES is the comparative high cost of implementing existing solutions, and a simultaneous lack of certainty about how these investments can be recovered. In the absence of a sound policy framework, the global response to climate change, which is built around decarbonization through an unprecedented, colossal shift to VREs will remain haphazard and incomprehensive. Moreover, at this point in time, there is no consistent pathway that has been defined for decarbonization illustrated by federal and state policies that will steer the E&U industry in the right direction. The proposed presentation will include discussion of policy gaps, needs and opportunities for LDES that require urgent attention from U.S. based policymakers at the federal and state level. While the focus is primarily on the North American electric grid, the gaps and needs identified are representative of global issues for the integration of LDES. This presentation will also provide background information on how the U.S. E&U industry is structured and regulated, along with perspectives on LDES technologies and applications, all of which have direct relevance to the presentation's primary focus on the need for LDES policymaking.