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Department of Energy seeks to kickstart storage under new budget

Rick Perry speaking at an event
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Department of Energy's 2020 budget request reveals new initiatives for advanced energy storage technologies, which are critical to integrating more clean energy into every portion of the power grid.

Why it matters: In the DOE's assessment, deployment of these technologies has been slowed by a "scarcity of technical information on [their] economic performance." The proposed efforts are meant to lower technical barriers to their adoption, helping to meet high electric grid demand by saving energy during off-peak periods from intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar.

Details: According to the budget justification documents provided to Congress by the DOE, this budget would support the following efforts:

  • Creation of an “Advanced Energy Storage Initiative” that would facilitate collaboration across the DOE’s offices to rapidly increase storage capabilities and integrations
  • Continued research on new storage devices and materials, including the “development of open source models and software tools for system level energy storage planning and evaluation"
  • Design and construction of a grid storage “launchpad” at the Pacific Northwest National Lab that would allow teams to test and evaluate new advanced storage technologies

Yes, but: The DOE’s energy storage initiatives do not address other challenges to implementation, including obstructive or unclear state policies.

  • The outcomes of evolving proceedings in the wake of FERC Order 841 — which requires wholesale power markets to develop rules that allow energy storage resources to participate — could affect the program's success. Some regional transmission organizations are already asking for extensions to FERC compliance deadlines for crafting storage policies.

Watch to watch: The DOE is requesting $5 million to build the launchpad, an expenditure it will partially offset with a $2.5 million reduction in research spending elsewhere.

  • While these numbers are rounding errors in the context of DOE’s $2.3 billion request for energy innovation and independence programs, the case for this swap will still need to be made to Congress.

Sarah E. Hunt is the co-founder and CEO of Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy.