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Energy Storage Use Evolving in California



California has the largest energy storage market in the United States and it is changing. The evolution is happening because of the increase in variable energy resources, such as wind and solar, coupled with the goal of electrifying the transportation system to reduce greenhouse gases. The changes are spurring interest, legislation and investment in energy storage in California.

Energy storage is expected to help the state meet two important goals: sourcing 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

California set procurement targets for energy storage in 2010 with Assembly Bill 2514. That legislation directed the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to adopt an energy storage program. It also defined procurement targets of 1,325 megawatts (MW) of energy storage by 2020 for the three largest investor-owned utilities (IOUs): Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

As of February 2017, the utilities procured more than 475 MWs of energy storage, according to the California Energy Commission’s latest tracking progress report on the subject.

The IOUs have already opted for energy storage to combat uncertainty in the energy supply chain. This was seen recently in the wake of the 2016 leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility.

In the aftermath of the incident, SCE and SDG&E procured 100 MWs of electricity storage. SCE converted its Center Peaker power plant in Norwalk to a low-emission, hybrid battery storage-gas turbine peaker system - the first such kind in the world.

In California, energy storage exists in different forms including pumped hydropower energy, thermal energy, electrochemical energy, as well as flywheel and compressed air energy storage.

Pumped hydro energy is the dominant utility-scale electricity storage technology in California, and worldwide. As of 2017, more than 4,500 MWs of pumped hydro energy storage systems were operational in California, representing more than 3,400 gigawatts of energy storage.

Photo courtesy of: Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd.

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The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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