Minnesota is a national leader when it comes to clean energy, decarbonization and grid modernization. As the state’s renewable energy market continues to develop, policymakers have an opportunity to harness the benefits of energy storage and build a secure and resilient grid while simultaneously creating jobs and strengthening Minnesota’s economy.
The potential for energy storage is vast and rapidly growing. With a multitude of storage technologies now on the market and costs continuing to fall, storage is an essential tool to meet statewide energy and economic goals. However, Minnesota needs the right policy structures in place to capture these benefits.
Energy storage systems ensure that we can always access clean, renewable energy whether or not the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Increasing energy storage in Minnesota could accelerate the rollout of more renewable energy projects and decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the state — unleashing new clean energy investments and helping the state achieve its emissions-reduction goal of 80 percent by 2050.
Thanks to bipartisan action a decade ago, 25 percent of Minnesota’s total electricity now comes from renewable sources, and clean energy is the fastest-growing sector of the economy, boasting more than 57,000 jobs. As investors and companies look to grow and diversify their portfolios and businesses, energy storage can bring flexibility to facility managers and new sources of revenue. Additionally, energy storage is poised to be the next phase in clean energy job creation for Minnesota, with job opportunities in manufacturing, engineering, construction and more.
We know companies are increasingly looking to power their operations with renewable energy and energy efficiency as a way to save money and hedge against volatile fossil fuel prices. Energy storage is an important tool in the clean energy toolkit. Installing storage systems can help companies control energy costs, increase reliability and maximize the value of on-site renewable energy generation. Energy storage also allows for more integration of clean energy throughout the grid — creating savings for utilities, companies and consumers.
As prices continue to fall, energy storage offers a competitive and clean alternative to the natural gas plants that Minnesota currently relies on to meet peak demand. A recent report from the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab found that, if all benefits are included, solar combined with storage can be a cost-effective solution for meeting peak demand, and standalone storage could be a cost-effective option as soon as 2023. In addition, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that the global energy storage market will “double six times” from now to 2030 — growing from less than 5 gigawatt-hours in 2017 to more than 300 gigawatt-hours by the end of 2030. During this time, more than $103 billion will be invested in energy storage. Minnesota needs to be ready to capture that new investment and the jobs it will create.
Policies that support the development of energy storage will send strong signals to investors and companies looking to invest in Minnesota. Currently, Minnesota does not have in place any policies to encourage energy storage or any pilot programs to explore the value of energy storage — both of which are key to maximizing the benefits of storage and launching a storage market in the state. The Legislature is currently considering several energy storage proposals that would help create the foundation for a thriving energy storage market, such as implementing a statewide cost-benefit analysis of the energy storage potential, asking utilities to consider energy storage in their planning and establishing methods for utilities to recover costs from energy storage pilot projects.
Many states have already taken steps to incentivize the development of energy storage systems to capture the benefits it can bring to businesses, institutions and consumers. Minnesota has been a leader in diversifying and decarbonizing the electricity sector, and energy storage is the next opportunity. Strong policies that help foster the development of the energy storage market here in Minnesota will help ensure that the state remains a leader in the transition to a clean energy economy.
Ellen Anderson is the executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, the funding organization of the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance. Alli Gold Roberts is senior manager of state policy at the sustainability nonprofit organization Cerese.