Powering Strong Communities

Sandia Report Highlights Role Of Energy Storage In Energy Equity

Energy storage is a key component of legislation and policies being adopted by the federal government and many states, according to a new report from Sandia National Laboratories.

The report, Seeking Energy Equity Through Energy Storage, argues that energy equity is fundamental to “healthy and prosperous social and economic systems, and contributes to regional and national security and stability.” The authors also noted that energy equity is highlighted in the Biden administration’s Executive Order No. 13,985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities.

The authors of the Sandia report cite data showing that low-income households spend three-times more of their income on energy costs than more affluent households and that electricity prices have been rising at much steeper rates than other commodities.

“As a direct result of these factors, low-income households and underserved communities may be unable to afford such fundamental services as air conditioning or heating,” the Sandia report said.

Some 50 million households, or about 40% of total households, fall into the category of underserved populations that “incur an array of burdens from electricity generation that are unique to their communities,” such as pollution from nearby fossil fuel burning generation assets, more frequent outages, and lower access to technologies such as solar power and backup energy storage devices, the report said.

One solution has been community solar programs. Sixteen states have already adopted community solar programs intended to bring solar power and lower energy bills to disadvantaged communities. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of community solar subscribers have been businesses, universities, or other entities that have little trouble in paying the steep project enrollment fees for the program, while disadvantaged communities have yet to see any direct benefits,” the report said.

The report also noted that states such as New Jersey, Illinois, Colorado and New York have begun programs aimed at correcting the disparity and securing the flow of community solar benefits to disadvantaged communities.

Many states have also implemented programs to encourage the development of energy storage, including a number of state initiatives that have the potential to incorporate provisions related to serving disadvantaged communities, the report said, adding that those initiatives provide a blueprint for how energy equity policymaking may evolve. The report cited policies in California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, and Illinois. The report’s authors also provided resources on how to measure equitable affordability and equitable resilience.

“If resilience, equity, environmental justice, and decarbonization are all to be prioritized together, energy storage and renewable energy will be at the heart of the technology solution,” the Sandia authors said. “To equitably provide resilience, some supply-side solutions must be sited close to vulnerable communities – providing critical services when the bulk power system fails,” they wrote. Those technologies, they said, must have very low-to-zero local pollutants and low-to-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

In conclusion, renewable energy, when coupled with energy storage, and grid-forming inverted technologies “are one of the only solutions ready today which can achieve these goals concurrently,” the report said.