EDF Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of EDF Group, has been chosen by Pacific Gas & Electric, the primary utility company serving the northern California community and the San Francisco Bay Area, to provide 40 megawatt-hours of “behind the meter” energy storage for its commercial and industrial customers.
Electricity is like compressed air. It has to be used right away or it is wasted. A conventional electrical grid has little ability to store energy or adjust for increases in demand. Utility companies have to make more electricity than they need in order to have enough. The excess is lost, which equates to lost revenue.
Grid-scale storage is expensive, but so is generating electricity that never gets used. Bringing so-called peaker plants online to supply more electricity when demand is high is also expensive. Storage options help balance the flow of electricity across the grid and soak up excess capacity that can be used later, turning power that would otherwise be wasted into more revenue.
Behind-the-meter storage allows customers to better manage their own energy usage. They can charge their batteries during times when rates are low and use the stored energy later when rates are high, avoiding demand charges that can double or triple the usual cost of electricity. In most cases, they can also continue to operate even if the main utility grid is down. And when appropriate, they can send power back to the grid and earn some income to offset the cost of the storage system. EDF’s proprietary PEGASE Energy Management System works seamlessly in the background to manage the behind-the-meter storage system and maximize the benefits available to customers.
Martin Wyspianski, PG&E senior director for energy portfolio procurement and policy, is happy with the progress his company has made toward meeting California’s renewable energy and storage goal of 1325 megawatts by 2020. “As our clean energy portfolio grows, so does the importance of storage technology. These contracts and the storage capacity they represent will help us better integrate our growing renewable generation sources, and bring increased reliability to the grid. They are an important milestone in our progress toward a clean energy future,” he tells The Financial Times.