Cost-effective electricity storage has long been a kind of "Holy Grail" for the electric power sector. Such storage technology could have multiple benefits for electricity consumers. It can serve as a temporary source of backup power to maintain on-site electric service in the event of a utility power blackout. It can be used to improve the availability of ("firm up") electricity generated from intermittent renewable sources such as solar and wind. It can also be used to shift end-user electricity loads from costly peak hours to lower cost off-peak hours, which can level regional generation profiles and lower customer electric bills. In pursuit of these benefits, many electricity storage solutions have been developed, and some have become commercially available—primarily at utility scale—but high costs and performance issues (along with key regulatory barriers) have limited their deployment. (See CRS Report R42455, Energy Storage for Power Grids and Electric Transportation: A Technology Assessment.) For example, banks of lead-acid batteries have been used to firm up generation from some renewable power installations. However, the economics and environmental characteristics of these batteries are unlikely to provide a long-term answer. Lithium ion batteries, another mature technology, have a better energy density and higher cycle life compared to lead-acid batteries, but they are much more expensive to manufacture. Other advanced battery technologies and kinetic and chemical-based energy storage systems are also being pursued.
Date of Report: 5/4/2015
Order Number: IN10271
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