In 2013 the Governor rolled out the Reforming the Energy Vision (“REV”) program, which broadly set forth the state’s energy policies and goals. Two of the central goals laid out in the REV were to have 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 60 percent of 1990 levels. These are in addition to commitments the state made as a part of its membership in the 17 state United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states determined to combat climate change. Currently only about 25 percent of the state’s electricity is derived from renewable sources.
Need for Energy Storage
One major obstacle to the widespread adoption of renewable energy resources have been their intermittent nature. This just means that they cannot produce electricity on demand. Taking two of the most widely known renewable sources for example: windmills do not generate electricity when the wind is not blowing and solar panels do not generate electricity when the sun is not shining. These facts put these energy sources at a disadvantage when compared to a coal or natural gas burning power plants which can produce more electricity whenever their operators decide to burn more fuel. Coupled with the inconsistent nature of electricity demand, (i.e. we tend to use a lot more electricity on hot summer days to power our air conditioners) much more widespread adoption of renewable energy sources cannot be achieved without overcoming this hurdle.
The Role of Energy Storage in New York
Enter large scale electricity storage. Currently the most common form of energy storage utilized in our electric grid is that of hydroelectric dams, which store gravitational potential energy in a reservoir, to be released whenever there is excess demand. However wind and solar electricity require a sophisticated battery to store the energy they produce. This burgeoning technology allows for excess electricity produced when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining to be saved for a time when there is more demand for electricity then is being produced. Famous technology company Tesla, who employs over 500 workers in their Western New York facility, is one of the world’s most prolific developers of these batteries, by some accounts installing half of the global stock since 2015. New York recognizes the need to invest in energy storage technology to achieve its renewable energy targets.
In 2017, New York became the fourth state to set a target for energy storage capacity. And in his 2018 State of the State address, the Governor publicly proclaimed a goal of 1.5 gigawatts of energy storage capacity by 2025. For context, that is enough to power about 450,000 homes. According to the state’s estimates, this would allow New Yorker to avoid over discharging a million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
Incentivizing Battery Implementation
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) has committed $260 million to energy storage investments. Last November Assembly Bill A06571 was enacted, creating the “Energy storage deployment program” with the goal of encouraging any economically feasible type of electricity storage that could potentially help New York reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The implementation of this law includes things like using NYSERDA’s Green Bank to invest in this technology, incorporating storage into the approval criteria for renewable energy procurement requests, and reducing regulatory barriers to storage projects. One example of a regulatory barrier being removed was an order issued in April by the New York State Public Service Commission modifying the standardized interconnection requirements to allow energy storage units to connect with the grid more easily. To date, NYSERDA has provided funding for over 50 new storage systems in the state.
To further solidify its commitment to being a national leader in the electricity storage industry, the New York State Department of Public Service released a comprehensive Energy Storage Roadmap on June 21st. The intention of the Roadmap is to provide a “set of recommended near‐term policy, regulatory and programmatic actions to support energy storage deployment in New York State.” If the energy storage industry becomes as central to the world’s energy infrastructure as the state believes it will, New York may well be in good position to capitalize on this budding technology.