Reflections from ISNA/ESNA 2023: Long-duration energy storage can drive California’s continued clean energy leadership

February 22, 2023

Chicago skyline at night image
By Eric Dresselhuys, CEO

California has always been a clean energy leader. But today, the Golden State faces new hurdles as a changing climate strains outdated energy infrastructure. Aging power lines have started multiple devastating wildfires in recent years and on top of wildfire risk, heat waves, combined with the changing energy generation mix, are increasingly leading to threats of brownouts and blackouts.   

While there are challenges, the shifting generation mix is a good thing. California is leading the transition to clean energy and decarbonization. But, as the state’s grid increasingly relies upon intermittent renewable energy, new technologies and policies need to be deployed and implemented to ensure resilience and reliability.  

The state has set an ambitious goal of 60 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2045. We know that long-duration energy storage (LDES) will be critical to meeting these targets and now it is up to policymakers, legislators and innovators to deploy the needed storage capacity and achieve clean energy targets.   

While there have been some recent LDES project announcements in California, such as our partnership with the Turlock Irrigation District which, as a part of Project Nexus, has the potential to support both decarbonization and water conservation, and our partnership with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District to deploy 200 MW of LDES in coming years, a lot more will be needed to meet decarbonization targets and deliver reliable, sustainable energy.   

For a deeper dive into the remaining obstacles slowing LDES deployment, last week I was joined by executives from the California ISO, AlphaStruxure, and Brookfield Renewables at Intersolar and Energy Storage North America 2023 for a panel discussion.   

Everyone agreed on the need to rapidly deploy LDES to build a more resilient and sustainable energy system. In fact, the California Energy Storage Alliance projects that 55 GW of LDES will be needed by 2045 to meet the state’s clean energy targets. Panelists shared their perspectives and highlighted challenges that must be overcome if we are going to translate the broadly recognized need for LDES into tangible projects on the grid.  

These challenges included: 

  • The lack of adequate mechanisms to cover the costs of new LDES technologies that can better meet the needs of the grid than legacy lithium-ion technology but are relatively early in commercialization. 
  • The California ISO interconnection queue currently adds significant cost and delay to new projects; the review process needs reform to expedite new project development. 
  • Tariff structures do not adequately reward the full range of value delivered by LDES projects. Increasing opportunities for revenue from LDES assets would improve project economics and create an incentive for more development.  

Fortunately, none of these challenges are insurmountable. To learn more about how California can accelerate LDES deployment, download our recent whitepaper: A California Plan: How California Leads Decarbonization. 

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