Modernizing the electric grid will help the nation meet the challenge of handling projected energy needs—including addressing climate change by relying on more energy from renewable sources—in the coming decades, while maintaining a robust and resilient electricity delivery system. By some estimates, the United States will need somewhere between 4 and 5 tera kilowatt-hours of electricity annually by 2050. Those planning and implementing grid expansion to meet this increased electric load face growing challenges in balancing economic and commercial viability, resiliency, cyber-security, and impacts to carbon emissions and environmental sustainability.  Energy storage systems (ESS) will play a significant role in meeting these challenges by improving the operating capabilities of the grid as well as mitigating infrastructure investments. ESS can address issues with the timing, transmission, and dispatch of electricity, while also regulating the quality and reliability of the power generated by traditional and variable sources of power. ESS can also contribute to emergency preparedness.

This report sets out potential options to improve energy storage. It also presents a number of specific actions that could help maintain both scientific advancements and a pipeline of project deployments. This report does not address new policy actions, nor does it specify budgets and resources for future activities. Section 2.0 of this report describes the present state of energy storage in the US, as well as international projects that could serve as a near-term template for US investment and growth. Section 3.0 describes the present state of technology for energy storage, including the applications and opportunities for each technology type. Section 4.0 discusses the barriers and challenges to widespread adoption of grid-storage techniques, as well as other concerns that will need to be addressed. Sections 5.0 and 6.0 highlight ideas on how to promote and advance energy storage over the next three to five years, ranging from promoting basic research to promoting and analyzing present and future grid-storage markets. Section 7.0 discusses goals related to technology developments while section 8.0 discusses goals related to analysis. Finally section 9.0 addresses standardization and DOE’s ongoing activities. The appendices detail storage R&D programs at relevant DOE offices and several Federal agencies and provides a listing of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funded energy storage projects.

For more information on how OE performs research and development on a wide variety of storage technologies, including batteries, flywheels, electrochemical capacitors, superconducting magnetic energy storage (SMES), power electronics, and control systems, visit the Energy Storage Program page.