The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has chosen 14 communities to participate in the Energy Storage for Social Equity Initiative (ES4SE), a program leading “toward community prosperity, well-being, and resilience” by way of new energy technology and community partnerships with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.
According to the DOE, more than 65% of low-income households in the United States experience heavy energy burdens, and roughly a third of them have faced energy insecurity. The ES4SE initiative seeks to build local infrastructure and correct a “history of microgrid projects that never happened,” said Mike Jacobs, senior energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
This $9 million initiative numbers among several recent DOE movements to support the recovery of environments and economies in need, including a joint effort with the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security to modernize Puerto Rico’s energy grid. Announced in February 2022, energy assistance to the territory will include disaster recovery and restoration efforts to infrastructure, but energy storage is a priority for Puerto Rico and the ES4SE.
In phase one of the ES4SE program, equity assessments and workforce research will help each community learn about the energy issues specific to their area. Five of the 14 will then be chosen to begin development of energy storage projects. The program focuses on providing a tailored approach to each area for maximum cost benefit. Technological assistance is crucial, according to Jin Noh, policy director of the California Energy Storage Alliance. Noh added that the project aims to “help these customer groups understand the value proposition of energy storage” so they can eventually “navigate interconnection processes and configure their systems in an optimal way.”
The DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management has already invested $2.4 million in high-temperature thermal energy and hydrogen storage, which could potentially be integrated into existing fossil fuel facilities.
Regarding these studies, Haresh Kamath, director of distributed energy resources and energy storage for the Electric Power Research Institute, told Utility Dive that “In the near term, we can operate the plant at its most efficient point,” thereby reducing the carbon generated per kilowatt-hour. He predicted that long-term benefits include heat storage through renewables rather than fossil fuels. According to Kamath, storage technology is crucial to managing the power sector’s assets more efficiently as we move toward more nonemitting grid resources.