Pumped hydro energy storage holds significant potential for Latin America

IADB energy storage

Pumped hydro energy storage (PHS) holds significant potential for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) due to the region’s vast hydroelectric infrastructure, according to a new Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study.

Energy storage can bring many benefits to electricity systems, including enhanced grid reliability, efficiency and flexibility. It will also be a key enabler of mass decarbonization and climate change mitigation, facilitating the expansion of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar while ensuring grid security. However, energy storage deployment in LAC is still nascent.

The report — State of Charge: Energy Storage in Latin America and the Caribbean — examines the current and potential future roles for various energy storage technologies in LAC grids. It describes the main energy storage technologies being used internationally and the status of storage technologies in LAC, highlighting emblematic projects. The publication also seeks to identify the most promising applications of each of these technologies in different LAC contexts and provide recommendations on the regulatory and policy changes that would be required to facilitate greater energy storage uptake in the region.

The report highlights that PHS could contribute to more secure power systems in LAC amid the build-out of variable renewable energies. The research adds, however, that the technology is capital-intensive, requires a long construction period and is space-intensive. “The response time of PHS also limits its utility for the provision of ancillary services such as power quality (frequency regulation and voltage support), which require a more rapid response,” the report says.

Information from the International Hydropower Association’s latest status report shows that installed hydroelectric capacity in LAC in 2019 totaled 196,391 MW, of which 109,058 MW was in Brazil. Of the 196,391MW, pumped storage totaled 974 MW in Argentina and 30 MW in Brazil.

IDB’s portfolio of potential financing includes technical cooperation to support PHS development in the region.

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