Are power outages in the U.S. isolated, rare occurrences or indicative of persistent, more troubling, problems? Unfortunately, it appears it’s the latter. Assessing the state of the U.S. power grid, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in August last year gave the country’s aging power infrastructure an overall – barely passing – grade of D+.
The fragility of the electricity grid and power supplies poses a profound threat not only to utilities and the electrical system, but, by extension, to the U.S. economy and society as a whole. In fact, the U.S. has the worst performing electricity grid among developed nations, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC).
Power outages are costing American businesses as much as $150 billion per year, according to the DOE. Massoud Amin, director of the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) at the University of Minnesota, has highlighted the rising toll extreme weather events are taking on the economy and society.
“We used to have two to five major weather events per year [that knocked out power], from the ‘50s to the ‘80s,” Amin points out. “Between 2008 and 2012, major outages caused by weather increased to 70 to 130 outages per year. Weather used to account for about 17 to 21 percent of all root causes. Now, in the last five years, it’s accounting for 68 to 73 percent of all major outages.”
Rate-based demand-reduction measures, such as those recently instituted by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), are a step in the right direction. They offer incentives for utility customers to reduce energy use and boost efficiency. Much more needs to be done if we are to enhance the reliability and resiliency of the electricity grid and power supplies, however.
Deploying intelligent energy storage systems also benefits utilities, the economy and society as a whole. Energy storage relieves stress on local electric utilities’ distribution systems. By reducing the need for utilities to build and run costly “peaker” plants, GreenStation customers are helping keep electricity costs lower than they might otherwise be. They’re also reducing strains on water supplies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution.
As the developer of a “leading edge” intelligent energy storage system, we’ve been working with multiple stakeholders – utilities, businesses, public sector organizations and federal and state government agencies – for over five years now. We cheered the enactment of California’s landmark AB 2514 energy storage mandate. Other states and territories – Hawaii, New York and Puerto Rico – are following suit.
We’re certainly excited about our business’s prospects, but we’re just as, if not more, excited about the helping chart and pilot a course that not only enhances the reliability and resiliency of the nation’s electricity grid and power supplies, but goes a long way towards resolving even greater problems that are taking a heavier and heavier toll on Americans and societies around the world.
Along with distributed renewable energy generation, smart grids, energy efficiency upgrades, and a shift away from fossil fuel dependence in the transportation and agricultural sectors, intelligent energy storage is emerging as a key foundation stone in building a resilient, sustainable and eco-friendly economy and energy infrastructure.