Energy storage is a key to lowering the costs of electricity and delivering a safe, reliable power grid into the future. Last week, Stormont hosted senior power industry leaders, including Mike Kormos of the largest US wholesale electricity power market PJM, who joined Minister Arlene Foster and Basil McCrea MLA for a serious discussion of how energy storage will help achieve key goals for the power grid in Northern Ireland and throughout the Single Electricity Market (SEM).
Adding this powerful new resource will reduce constraint costs by millions, while ensuring that the SEM gets the most benefit from abundant wind and new transmissions investments.
In contrast to many system security investments, energy storage will result in lower total costs for the average customer.
This is exactly what has happened in other markets where advanced battery-based storage systems have been in operation for years.
Storage systems have improved power system resilience while liberating low-cost power generators to produce energy and keep prices down.
And it is the island markets who are leading the way to this new future.
Long Island, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Jeju Island, Japan, and many others have active programmes to contract and procure energy storage.
Energy storage will reduce the costs of maintaining a stable power grid in these islands, by allowing a more efficient use of all the power generators, avoiding the need to run certain high cost/high emissions units for reliability, and smoothing out costly rapid cycling of thermal power plants.
In the same way we reduce fuel costs and lower emissions in a hybrid electric car by adding a battery to the gasoline engine, these large utility scale batteries will do the same for the entire power grid, saving money for every customer.
For more than five years, we have worked shoulder to shoulder with leading power systems to install grid-scale battery energy storage resources that perform at the highest levels of reliability. In California, our 100MW energy storage project recently won a twenty-year contract from among 1,800 competitive offers including thermal plants, demand response, and renewable generation.
These same benefits are available today for Northern Ireland, in the SEM, and across the United Kingdom. At Kilroot Power Station, near Belfast, we are developing a 100MW energy storage facility that will provide 200MW of flexible power capability.
This project takes advantage of the existing grid connection requiring no significant transmission investment, is permitted to proceed, and will be a great example of how Northern Ireland is a pragmatic leader in applying innovation.
The resource is estimated to produce customer savings of at least €11m (£8.7m) per year and can be installed in about 12 months.
It has been offered to the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) as a way to help meet their critical system security needs while also reducing total costs for the customers by reducing constraint payments.
My congratulations and kudos goes to the leaders in Northern Ireland and throughout the SEM for organising the Stormont meetings on energy storage.
May they prove a positive step toward lowering costs and improving power system performance for all customers.
John Zahurancik is president of AES Energy Storage