- The U.S. Department of Energy has selected 14 communities that will receive technical assistance from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as part of the agency's broader Energy Storage for Social Equity initiative (ES4SE).
- The initiative, launched last September, is aimed at helping underserved communities use energy storage as a way to build resilience and energy affordability. The DOE selected the 14 communities from more than 60 that applied for assistance.
- The effort addresses the issue of bringing some technical help to better prepare fundable projects, Mike Jacobs, a senior energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said. "There is a bit of a history of microgrid projects that never happened – and this program, in particular, is designed to think about those [problems] and fix them before they… lead to an unfunded or unbuilt project."
More than 65% of low-income households across the U.S. face a high energy burden, and more than 30% of all households have experienced energy insecurity, according to the DOE. The ES4SE initiative was created to address these problems, and help urban, rural and tribal disadvantaged communities find energy storage technologies that work for them.
Storage facilities have the ability to address many of these challenges, regulators say. For instance, they can be integrated into peaking facilities – often located near disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations – to shrink emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.
"From a system-wide perspective, if energy storage – depending on when it’s deployed – can offset the need for fossil fuel generators, it could reduce the need to run those facilities or retire them altogether," Jin Noh, policy director of the California Energy Storage Alliance, noted.
The 14 communities selected for the effort span 11 states, including Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and New York. In the first phase of the program, these communities will be given the technical support to understand the energy-related challenges they face and identify solutions to them, via equity assessments and workforce analyses. Following this, five communities will be chosen to begin deploying energy storage projects. At this phase, the agency will help them with energy storage equipment sizing, utility connections and installation.
"Technical assistance is particularly important, especially when we need to help these customer groups understand the value proposition of energy storage, as well as having the resources to be able to navigate interconnection processes and configure their systems in an optimal way," Noh said.
Storage projects that support community infrastructure, shelter during natural disasters and emergency services – like water plants and fire stations – could help make a difference on the ground, according to Jacobs.
"In the New York City area after Superstorm Sandy, an awful lot of diesel generators didn’t operate… an awfully large number of diesel generator owners had contracted for fuel delivered from the same fuel company, who didn’t ever anticipate serving all of them in the same two or three-day period," Jacobs explained.
"So, how do you actually use your emergency back-up generator when it's an emergency is a really good starting point for [this conversation]."