NHA report details hurdles facing America’s pumped storage sector

A report released today by the National Hydropower Association hopes to shed light on the state of the United States’ pumped storage sector, with particular emphasis placed on the benefits it can offer and the challenges it faces.

Called the “2018 Pumped Storage Report“, the study also provides recommendations for operators, regulators and policy makers that would improve market conditions and permitting.

“Pumped storage hydropower, the nation’s largest source of grid-scale energy storage, can help solve some of the most urgent problems facing the electric power sector today,” NHA said in a statement. “Despite ensuring that electric supply securely matches electric demand and in real-time, market, policy and regulatory burdens continue to hinder its growth.”

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows more than 97% of the nation’s installed storage capacity comes by way of pumped storage, with batteries, compressed air, flywheels and others combining for the miniscule remainder.

Still, pumped storage is not adequately compensated under current environmental, market and regulatory constructs for its key attributes, NHA said, with increased system resiliency being one of the chief amongst them.

“As the need for increased grid reliability and flexibility increases, we need to take a closer look at the market and regulatory policies that undervalue the services that pumped storage provides,” said Jeff Leahey, NHA Deputy Executive Director. “Pumped storage can sustainably grow by 35 GW, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Developing pumped storage, particularly in areas with significant deployments of variable or intermittent generation would significantly improve grid reliability while further reducing the reliance on fossil-fueled generation.”

Specifically, NHA recommends market and policy improvements including:

  • Developing market products that allow flexible resources to be compensated for providing services that help meet electric grid requirements, including fast responding systems that provide critical capacity during key energy needs;
  • Developing market mechanisms that evaluate energy storage technologies based on their abilities to provide key supporting services to the overall electric grid, taking into consideration project lifecycle costs, performance and energy storage system degradation; and
  • Developing market mechanisms and products that recognize the potential energy reliability and security role pumped storage plays in the domestic electric grid.

In the regulatory arena, NHA’s report recommends:

  • Establishing an alternative, streamlined licensing process for low-impact pumped storage hydropower, such as off-channel, modular, or closed-loop projects;
  • In regions without competitive wholesale (energy or capacity) markets, require consideration of energy storage resources in state integrated long-term planning processes; including requiring equal consideration with traditional resources;
  • Developing standard evaluation criterion for all forms of energy storage so that different types of energy storage can easily be compared and evaluated.

“For pumped storage to fully realize its growth potential, it requires market policies that appropriately value its grid services and that provide the certainty needed to attract investment,” Leahey said.

Opportunities to learn more about pumped storage in the U.S.
Pumped storage will be a topic of significant conversation at the National Hydropower Association’s Annual Conference, which takes place as part of Waterpower Week in Washington next week.

For details about Waterpower Week in Washington, click here.

Pumped storage will also take center stage at the Grid-Scale Energy Storage Summit, which takes place June 25-26th in conjunction with HydroVision International 2018. This new event looks to bring together utilities, developers, manufacturers, policy makers, grid managers and more to explore the synergies between pumped storage and other renewables.

For details about the Grid-Scale Energy Storage Summit, visit here.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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