Why Energy Storage Solutions Are Vital to the Growth of Renewable Energy
The current advances in cleantech across Canada have already brought us closer as a nation to decarbonizing our country. But, there remain several challenges that we as an industry must address if large-scale renewable energy usage is to become a reality for all Canadians. For renewable sources of energy, like wind and solar, to compete with old-fashioned energy producers, especially in off-grid and rural communities, we must address the lack of large-scale energy storage solutions.
Renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, must contend with the problems of consistency and reliability. If the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, energy is not being produced. The solution is to store excess energy for use when production decreases but demand is high. The challenge of energy storage is currently one of the most significant barriers preventing renewable energy from completely replacing the dirty, fossil fuel-based solutions on our grid. Energy storage represents a significant area for investment and innovation, one that could change the status of clean technology in Canada and around the world.
For off-grid communities, a lack of storage not only means that many Canadians cannot use solar and wind energy to meet their needs, but it also means they are left to rely on dirty diesel generation. The highly volatile diesel fuel market often influences electricity rates to rise several times that of the national average. The regions with the highest diesel based electricity generation are also relatively economically disadvantaged. Unfortunately, our current reality is that these citizens pay a great deal more for energy while also polluting the environment.
The technology currently exists for both small-scale and short-term energy storage, but to address fluctuating and long-term demands, renewable energy producers will need long duration solutions that meet the needs of today’s energy consumer. If cleantech visionaries want to decrease demand for polluting, carbon-based energy production, we must invest in new storage technologies and look for ways to deploy long duration energy storage at scale.
Energy storage solutions will enable renewables to provide an uninterruptible power supply to off-grid users. The storage industry is emerging globally, with the US and China leading the charge, but unfortunately, we in Canada are far behind, with a negligible share of cumulative installed storage capacity.
Even though planned procurement is increasing, the US still has greater than 33 times the short-term planned acquisitions than we do. Canada needs to move faster in storage to enable higher penetration of renewables into the market. The combination of long-term energy storage with renewable energy generation will decarbonize electricity generation, increase resiliency, and in our off-grid communities, hedge against diesel price volatility.
Investors and innovators in Canada have an incredible opportunity to become leaders in North America in renewable energy production and storage if we can focus on the opportunities that currently present themselves. By investing in energy storage now, we can lower costs to consumers, reduce our national reliance on carbon polluters, and soon become the North American supplier of clean energy to our citizens and those of the U.S.