Source: https://www.loc.gov/item/2017707731/, Dinosaur Garage sign, Dinosaur, Colorado, from the John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, which states that there are no known restrictions on publication.

What’s new

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a document titled Energy Storage Grand Challenge Roadmap, which describes “a comprehensive program to accelerate the development, commercialization, and utilization of next-generation energy storage technologies and sustain American global leadership in energy storage. “

What does it mean?

The DOE program states goals for a 90% reduction from 2020 baseline costs in the cost of energy storage for long-duration stationary applications by 2030 and a 44% reduction from the current cost to manufacture a battery pack for a 300-mile range electric vehicle, again by 2030. Various tracks in the program focus on reducing the cost of operation as well as the cost to manufacture energy storage devices.

The report outlines six Use Cases describing ways in which improved energy storage will improve lives:

  1. facilitating an evolving grid (with improved resilience and reduced emissions),
  2. serving remote communities (with “clean, resilient, and cost-effective storage and flexibility solutions”),
  3. electrified mobility (to “facilitate a large-scale adoption of electric vehicles while maximizing beneficial coordination with the power grid”),
  4. interdependent network infrastructure (including reducing the need for peaking plants that run on fossil fuels),
  5. critical services (providing for continuity of power during disaster-related and other outages), and
  6. flexibility (for commercial and residential buildings and for energy-intensive facilities).

The technical and social changes needed to meet these goals are large, including safety (for example, to reduce the tendency of Lithium-ion batteries to overheat), cybersecurity, and the ethical sourcing of critical materials in these storage devices. Arguably, the resulting program, when successful, will be as significant as the initial electrification of this country.

What does it mean for you?

Denver-based journal Allen Best publishes a newsletter called Big Pivots, about the changes in Colorado use of water, energy, land, and other natural resources – and especially about climate change. Those who refer to the vast middle of the US as flyover country have seen the huge crop circles irrigated by a center well, through a large irrigation tube that pivots around that center.

Energy storage is driven by and is driving electrification, which, in turn, enables increased use of renewably generated energy to replace fossil fuels. Best wrote two days ago about the interplay among transportation, tourism, and the Colorado economy in the installation of a new high-speed charging station in Dinosaur, Colorado. He quotes Jim Heneghan, chief power supply officer for Delta-Montrose Electric Association, about the new imperative to have such a station: “If we don’t have the infrastructure in place now, it will be like the place that didn’t have WiFi. We don’t want to be that place.”

To state my now obvious punch line: don’t be a dinosaur. You should be looking at the sources and uses of energy in your organization now and moving, through beneficial electrification, to reducing your dependence on fossil fuels.

I just had personal experience with Use Case #2 about remote communities when my propane company failed to deliver, leaving me with an empty propane tank for five days and pushing me to accelerate my plans to install a heat pump. My local electric coop, San Isabel Electric Association, is giving me advice on how to electrify our water heating.

The present and the future in commercial energy includes using electricity to heat and cool spaces for humans, adopting electric transportation such as electric forklifts, and powering industrial operations from renewably generated electricity. In my home town, Pueblo’s historic 1881 steel mill will become the first in North America to rely on solar power; it already sources its input from recycled material.

Where can you learn more?

This August 2020 article from Deloitte provides an overview of the imperatives driving electrification in industrial companies. ACEEE, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, has a page focusing on industrial changes.

The website of the Energy Storage Association is a good place to start to learn about energy storage, including this overview of energy storage and  this description of the five basic types of energy storage: batteries, thermal, mechanical, storage, and pumped water. This page focuses on how energy storage can benefit a company. “Behind the meter” is a phrase used by the electrical industry to refer to devices and actions that are taken by the customer (who is behind the meter from the viewpoint of the electricity provider).

Selection of energy reduction strategies, including on site energy storage, requires understanding how you are charged for electricity, that is, your electricity tariff. This page from The Energy Detective explains the basics of fixed rates, tiers, time of use rates, demand charges, and other rates.

The Office of Electricity in the US Department of Energy is also a good source of information on technology being developed to create a secure, resilient, and reliable national grid. An overview of their work is here and various reports are here.

The US Energy Information Administration’s web page on electricity also has valuable information, so much that it can be overwhelming. This page has information on the consumption of energy in manufacturing.

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