April 30, 2019

...AND CHEAPER...:

An Unexpected Current That's Remaking American Politics: New forms of electricity storage are making the grid more renewable and more reliable--and may change the politics of climate change. (MICHAEL GRUNWALD April 29, 2019, Politico)

[A]nother technology revolution is underway that could help solve that problem: an electricity storage boom. The cost of lithium-ion batteries has plunged 85 percent in a decade, and 30 percent in just the past year, so utilities across the U.S. have started attaching containers full of them to the grid--and they're planning to install far more of them in the coming years. Electricity has always been the toughest commodity to manage, because unlike water, grain, fuel or steel, it has been largely impossible to store for later use. But that is changing fast, and even though the dramatic growth of batteries on the grid will be invisible to most Americans, it has the potential to transform how we produce and consume power, creating more flexible and resilient electricity systems with less waste, lower costs and fewer emissions.

"This will be like the change from analog to digital, or landlines to cell phones," says Advanced Microgrid Systems CEO Susan Kennedy, whose firm's software helps utilities optimize their power choices every instant of every day. "The energy industry will never be the same."

Electricity storage will reshape the grid in many ways, but the most important is its potential to accelerate the already explosive growth of renewable energy--and that will have political implications. Of the 21 states with the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita, Trump won 20 of them, and the lone exception, New Mexico, just passed a law committing to 100 percent clean power by 2045. By contrast, Hillary Clinton won the eight states with the lowest emissions per capita. But that carbon divide is not necessarily permanent. Eighty percent of the wind power installed during Trump's presidency has been built in states he won, and the five most wind-dependent states were all Trump states. And while the storage boom started in blue states like California and Hawaii, it is taking off in Texas, Florida, and the rest of Red America as well. Polls suggest "clean energy" is now popular throughout the country, even though "climate action" is not, and there are now more than 3 million clean energy jobs in America, versus only 50,000 coal-mining jobs. The president's fossil-fueled rhetoric no longer reflects the reality on the ground. And the politics of energy might become less partisan in a world in which renewable power becomes much more common.

The energy world really is changing at the speed of light. Wind and solar generation has almost quintupled in the past decade, providing 9 percent of U.S. electricity last year without emitting any greenhouse gases. This has further complicated the already daunting task of balancing supply and demand on the grid every instant, forcing utilities to respond to every passing cloud and lull in the wind. The rise of Big Data has helped to identify where more electrons are needed in real time, while new transmission lines have helped move electrons longer distances to meet those needs. But lithium-ion batteries were too expensive to use to capture power on the grid before yet another technology transformation--the growth of electric vehicles, from zero a decade ago to more than 1 million on American roads today--drove down their costs through mass production.

Now grid storage is poised to grow at a faster pace than the electric cars that made it cost-effective, and even faster than the renewables it will help to accommodate on the grid.




Posted by at April 30, 2019 4:25 AM

  

« THE TIGHTENING NOOSE: | Main | THE TIGHTENING NOOSE: »