Energy Storage as an Equity Asset
Energy equity assesses how the costs and benefits of the energy
power system are distributed across all segments of society
It is not common to consider the energy equity capabilities of a specific technology. Advancing equity ought to be technology agnostic with a vision to integrate justice principles, fairness, and social equity into energy systems. This is achieved by evaluating where inequities occur, who bears the inequities, what processes remedy the inequities, and how the inequities can be eliminated.
Energy storage technology enables equity
Energy storage is a technology with several equity-enabling characteristics. Energy storage systems are unique because they can be located anywhere in the electrical system: in homes and other properties, in neighborhoods, at substations, and with power plants. The locational flexibility, diverse applications, and uses of storage in the energy transition provide a practical starting point to imagine how technology can be thoughtfully applied to address inequities in the electrical system.
These considerations are critical when considering technology and grid futures—electrification, distributed energy, decarbonization and climate change, and resilience. How do grid investments and modernization affect people? How do these investments accommodate the different ways that people interact with the energy system? Like the energy vulnerable who depend on reliable electricity for their well-being; communities disproportionately affected by past and current energy system operation; and communities that may not benefit from future proposed investments?
Energy storage systems can be designed and deployed to address these challenges and support a more reliable electric service delivery at the local level. Storage can strategically integrate with peaking facilities to reduce emissions, both greenhouse gas emissions and health-impacting pollutants. Peaker plants tend to be located near disadvantaged communities exacerbating the health and environmental burden borne by these vulnerable populations. Energy storage systems can facilitate the retirement and decommissioning of aging facilities in a way that considers ratepayers in the replacement process.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working with its energy storage technology programs, which include modeling innovation, regulatory adaptation, and demonstrations to envision storage deployment to advance energy equity. This includes:
- capturing the social benefits, including health as part of energy investments,
- understanding the relationship between a more equitable outcome at scale and developing metrics, tools, and models to support better upstream decision-making,
- and designing technologies to be safer, longer-lived, and deliver more value to the communities in which they are placed.