Energy storage and demand response key to Oregon’s sustainability

Praveen Kathpal, is vice president at AES Energy Storage, a Virginia company that has expressed interest in bringing industrial-scale batteries to Oregon's grid.

Praveen Kathpal, is vice president at AES Energy Storage, a Virginia company that has expressed interest in bringing industrial-scale batteries to Oregon's grid.

Efficiency. Clean energy. Smarter transportation. Three pillars form the backbone of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s ambitious 10-year energy plan that aims to meet new electricity demand without building additional generation, achieve low carbon emissions and incorporate a high level of renewable sources.

Depending on your viewpoint, this plan either has inconvenient, or ideal, timing.

Coal plants like Boardman are being shuttered across the Northwest in the coming years. To take their place, many utilities are moving to build new natural gas-fired power plants. Natural gas is affordable, relatively clean and domestically abundant. But as with any energy source, it has its limitations. Industry experts are already cautioning against concentrating too much new generation in gas-fired facilities. Building solely new gas-fired plants as a replacement for retiring coal capacity would limit the opportunity for renewables.

To make Kitzhaber’s plan a reality, Oregon should be looking for ways to maximize the efficiency of any energy source — renewable, natural gas, hydro power — you name it. By employing tools such as energy storage and demand response, Oregon can release the full potential of existing electricity generation to meet demand growth and replace retiring units. These tools can help Oregon extract efficiency from sources of electricity supply, complementing efforts underway to improve the efficiency of electricity consumption.

Electricity is one of the only products in the world that must be produced and consumed at the exact same moment. In order to meet this requirement, the power grid must have enough electricity generation capacity to serve instantaneous customer demand during the highest moments of use in the hottest summers and coldest winters. The rest of the year, the grid runs at levels significantly below its full capacity with some of the most efficient power generating resources in the world operating at less than 50 percent of their capability, on average. Imagine for a minute building a world-class, highly efficient factory and then only taking full advantage of it between Thanksgiving and Christmas for seasonal shopping.

Energy storage and demand response are beginning to solve these issues by changing when and how electricity is delivered and consumed, improving the efficiency of underutilized grid power sources. Energy storage in particular can act as an electricity warehouse — capturing excess power when it is abundant and delivering it when it is needed. The flexibility of storage allows us to get more out of our cleanest, most efficient generators while keeping the inefficient ones from running when they would otherwise burn fuel. And, like other warehouses, storage can be located at strategic points around the grid to increase reliability, improve efficiency and minimize costly improvements to transmission infrastructure.

Oregon can and should use all available tools to achieve the state’s goals and continue as a leader in sustainable energy into the future. Newer commercial solutions, such as energy storage and demand response can help ensure the state’s electricity infrastructure is used to its greatest value — thereby achieving a truly efficient and sustainable infrastructure.


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