Wood Mackenzie’s latest report on utility scale battery storage forecasts strong growth this year followed by even stronger growth in 2020. The entire US Energy Storage Monitor report is available for viewing and download on the company’s website. What is important about the latest findings is that the ramp up in utility scale storage is a product of business as usual analysis rather than a one time response to an emergency situation like the Aliso Canyon project in California that was prompted by a massive methane leak.
“This is all about recognizing value, and utilities are on the bleeding edge of recognizing storage’s value right now,” Daniel Finn-Foley, senior storage analyst at Wood Mackenzie, tells Green Tech Media. “When they do look at it, guess what happens? They pick it.” Economics 101, people, and it’s working exactly as intended.
In particular, the fourth quarter of 2019 saw a significant uptick in installed utility scale battery storage. “This isn’t a fluke quarter; this is the natural evolution we’ve been looking at the market developing toward, and now it’s finally happening,” Finn-Foley says. “You now have more confidence in entering new markets. You’re not going to get pure-play capacity or pure-play arbitrage. You get more opportunities to layer value now.”
Policy decisions at the federal and state level have provided a boost to storage. FERC order 841, which directs regional wholesale market operators to clarify how storage can participate in the markets based on its unique attributes, like the ability to both charge and discharge.
States like Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire promise more storage activity in those states. Puerto Rico has recently announced plans to add up to 900 MWh of storage over the next 4 years and even Arizona Public Service, which fought tooth and nail to defeat the proposed renewable energy standard last year (using millions of dollars of rate payer money to do so) is now proposing to add 850 MWh of storage by 2025. In January, Hawaiian Electric Company asked regulators to approve a barrage of power purchase agreements that would add 1,048 megawatts to the islands’ electrical grid.
The fact that all this activity is happening in the ordinary course of business rather than as a reaction to special circumstance like Aliso Canyon demonstrates the industry is diversifying and maturing, Finn-Foley says. That is the best possible news for renewable energy advocates.