Energy storage in America is advancing at a rapid rate now that new, progressive regulations are in place. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry, even more so for the Energy Storage Association (ESA), the trade organization that provides a voice for its members. ESA’s outreach to policymakers and regulators on Capitol Hill and at the state and regional levels is making change toward a greener, more sustainable future.
It’s no fun when the power goes out. Food spoils, and, depending on the time of year, heat or cold can pose serious threats to the health of vulnerable seniors and infants. There is also the economic impact to businesses put on hold during an outage.
But, what if energy storage systems in your community – or special batteries in your home – could provide the reliable, renewable energy that you need for electricity, heating, cooling and transport needs? What if renewables-based systems could allow individual homes and companies to produce and manage their own electricity supply and demand, with the electricity grid as a power back-up? To this end, smart technology in electric meters, appliances and electronics has set the course for efficiencies in electricity use and conservation.
The drive to enable better energy storage and bring new technologies into the energy supply, distribution and storage mix, is part of the everyday conversation at the Energy Storage Association (ESA) in Washington, D.C.
ESA is the trade association for the energy storage industry, and the leading voice for companies that develop and deploy the advanced energy storage systems which support the power grid we rely on every day. “Ultimately, we’re trying to create a world where energy is more resilient, more efficient, more sustainable and more affordable for everyone,” says CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman.
“As a former state regulator from Maryland, realizing customer savings is near and dear to my heart. I learned that the aspirations of clean energy have to be coupled with reason and cost-effectiveness, and that’s what storage enables,” she says.
“I have worked most of my career for cleaner energy, solar and wind and biogas. As a regulator, I know what we do has real consequences for people; it’s more than just keeping the lights on, it’s about being able to pay their electric bill and pay their rent.” She is proud that ESA, with more than 180 member organizations including electric utilities, energy service companies, independent power producers, installers, insurers, manufacturers and more, is well on track to help people have both reliable and affordable energy.
When Speakes-Backman came into the association in 2017, the team got to work on a new vision for energy storage to make a clear pathway to get to 35 gigawatts of new energy storage by 2025. (To put this into perspective, one gigawatt can provide power for about 700,000 homes for a year.) “That is our guidepost, our North Star. We as an association are doing everything we can to enable that for our industry,” she says.
That also means that, by 2025, you’ll see more than a quarter of a million jobs in this industry across the country, and $4 billion worth of energy savings because of the enablement of clean and renewable energy coming onto the grid. In terms of the environment, significant emissions will be avoided, and people will benefit from increased reliability and resilience, which saves businesses and the economy.
“I think storage is the enabler for all of that, and I think storage can help people, businesses and the environment in that very real way,” says Speakes-Backman.
But how do you reach that target in a highly regulated industry segment where each state is different? Energy storage is the key to unlock a lot of the policy goals of state and federal policymakers today, she says. “That’s why we’re here.”
And education is a priority to influence policy and create change. “We can create rules and policies that allow access and compensate it, and allow competition so everybody can be a part of the market. There’s never a dull moment,” she says. “The excitement for me is that we are on an upward trajectory where we can ride that and control that a bit.”
Speakes-Backman is clearly passionate about the cause and the fact that she came to ESA as its first female CEO leading the charge. “I think what ESA and its board of directors were saying with that step is that a diversity of stakeholders and people involved in the organization will bring new ideas, and that’s what we need to open up these markets. We need new ideas, fresh thought and collaboration. This is one of my favorite things that I’ve ever done and I have to say that I’m really proud of that.”
To be sure, ESA is going full-tilt to open up networking and business opportunities for its members, and to educate stakeholders as to the benefits of energy storage, which feeds into the acceleration of markets. Stakeholders include the policymakers, regulators and even those who are procuring energy resources, such as utilities. “We help them to understand the broad scope of what energy storage is. A lot of people think it’s batteries, but it’s not just batteries, it is different applications for technology.”
Networking and getting the ESA message out to members and the public is integral to the energy storage industry, and one way to achieve this is by hosting and attending events and conferences that bring key players together. This past October, ESA hosted an event about the practical deployment issues and storage, to bring together young companies with innovative storage technologies and established industry leaders.
“It’s really about the practical matters of putting energy storage into the ground and what we need to do better,” shares Speakes-Backman. On that note, the theme of next spring’s national trade association event in Phoenix, AZ is expansion, inclusion and integration.
“We’ve got utilities working with behind the meter developers to make sure that storage is used to its maximum potential,” she says. “We’re also talking about how storage can play well with wind, with solar, with peaking capacity, even gas which plays well on the demand-response side and plays well in the entire ecosystem of energy.”
That North Star seems closer than ever.