Writing the Story of Storage

Leonard Olien | June 15, 2021

CanREA pens a new plan for advancing energy storage in Canada

Ten years ago, my colleagues and I first started modelling hybrid wind/energy storage facilities in what was, at the time, a largely hypothetical exercise. How times have changed.

Battery technologies are now being rapidly deployed, having declined in cost by 90% over the last decade. I am thrilled to see fully operational hybrid and energy storage facilities in Canada. 

This seems like the perfect time to lay out the story of energy storage and CanREA’s plan for advancing energy storage in Canada.

I’m going to tell the storage story by starting at the end: What does “Happily Ever After” look like for energy storage? Ultimately, these technologies will become ubiquitous. Storage will be routinely considered whenever new investments in the electricity system, such as for generation or transmission, are being contemplated by project developers or system operators.  

But we must work through many chapters before we reach this perfect ending. CanREA has identified six key transition elements that make up the story of storage.

1. Education and Familiarity

Chapter one will focus on increasing Canadians’ understanding and familiarity with energy storage.

Energy storage is a technology that uses electricity as an input, stores energy for a period of time, and returns electricity as an output.  It is important that it be viewed from a wide perspective, not only  to provide backup power or to smooth out the variability of renewable-energy generation.

Batteries can provide at least 13 different services to the grid, such as frequency regulation and grid congestion management, as identified by the clean energy think-tank RMI, while other energy-storage technologies, such as pumped hydro and compressed air energy storage, are also capable of providing most, if not all, of these services.

CanREA is currently writing this chapter of the story by leveraging our member companies’ wealth of knowledge, while we advance our advocacy for this flexible technology with system operators, regulators, developers and legislators.

2. Legislation and Regulations

Chapter two will focus on the introduction of new legislation and regulations to enable energy storage to participate in the electricity system.

CanREA’s position is that every jurisdiction in Canada needs a legislated or regulatory definition of energy storage, and rules and regulations that enable energy storage to participate in the electricity system.

Alberta has already started:  Alberta Energy has completed a stakeholder-engagement process on a legislative definition for energy storage and other issues, such as regulated utility ownership.  CanREA also participated in the processes to develop energy storage rules for the Ontario and Alberta wholesale electricity markets.

3. Market Structures

Chapter three involves the implementation of market-structure changes. Private investors need to identify revenue streams to monetize the many services that energy storage will provide. Likewise, regulated entities need valuation methodologies for various storage services to justify the investment to their regulator, customers and other stakeholders.

CanREA is currently involved in key processes in Alberta and Ontario that impact storage market participation. Going forward, CanREA will continue to advocate for market-structure changes that enable multiple revenue streams for energy storage technologies.

4. Grid Efficiency

Chapter four highlights the need for key stakeholders to consider a broader range of tools to address the needs of the electricity grid. Energy storage is one such tool that can help increase efficiency in the transmission and distribution systems, to manage congestion and peak loads.

New mathematical models to evaluate transmission capacity will enable progress in this area, in parallel with the development and deployment of advanced metering infrastructure to facilitate dynamic management of consumer loads.

For example, CanREA has advocated that energy-storage technologies should be considered as an alternative to building more transmission and distribution wires in Alberta.

5. Remote and Indigenous Communities

Chapter five focuses on the use of energy storage to help clean the electricity supply for remote and Indigenous communities that currently use shipped-in diesel to generate electricity. CanREA members are already starting to deploy hybrid projects in these communities, to produce local energy along with cleaner air, reduced GHG emissions, energy security and economic value for the community.

For example, CanREA member ATCO Group signed an agreement this year with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow, Yukon, who began operations on a 900 kW solar/ 350 kWh battery project that will reduce diesel usage in the summer.

6. Sustainability

Last but not least, chapter six requires that energy-storage components be produced in a sustainable way that supports a circular economy and safe labour practices. CanREA’s member code of conduct promotes ethical considerations in product-procurement and supply-chain practices.

CanREA has also initiated work to identify current and emerging battery-recycling opportunities in Canada. For more information, see our “Repowering and Decommissioning” webpage, and one-pager on the recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

What Happens Next

 CanREA continues to hold the pen on the story of storage, through ongoing advocacy work as a member association, and  remains actively involved in all the relevant discussions with provincial and federal governments, to move this story forward.

CanREA will release a whitepaper telling the full story of energy storage in the coming months. Subscribe to our enewsletter for details.