PHILADELPHIA -- A public power industry already in transition is bracing for further technology disruptions from better battery storage of electricity.

Michael Hagerty, a senior associate at economic consulting firm The Brattle Group, told a Philadelphia Area Municipal Analyst Society forum Thursday that an expected sharp decrease in battery storage costs in the next decade will lead to increased use of electric vehicles and other uses that utilities should prepare for with new infrastructure.

Hagerty, who has provided strategic planning for utilities, noted examples of battery storage utility projects around the country as an indicator of preparations already under way for changing times as more consumers seek renewable energy options.

Michael Hegerty, senior associate at economic consulting firm The Brattle Group, speaks to the Philadelphia Area Municipal Analysts Society on Jan. 18, 2018.
"We look at storage and see a lot of value potential," said Michael Hagerty of The Brattle Group. Andrew Coen

“It’s likely going to be preferences that are driving this transition,” said Hagerty of how consumer demand for renewable energy options may be more of a catalyst for change than pricing. "We look at storage and see a lot of value potential."

Hagerty said renewable energy projects incorporating battery use are advancing in different pockets of the U.S. and even in states that aren’t mandating a green transformation. Among the initiatives cited were Kentucky Power planning to add 10 megawatts of battery storage by 2025 and a community energy storage launched in Exelon, Ill., with 25-50 kilowatt lithium batteries aimed at reducing outages.

Long Island Power Authority CEO Tom Falcone said increased battery storage capabilities will arise in New York State as part of a new mandate under Gov. Andrew Cuomo to have half of all the state’s electricity comprised of renewable energy. While a recent study found LIPA wouldn’t need new power sources until at least 2035, the large utility is proactively tackling renewable energy infrastructure projects including a 10 megawatt battery storage facility in East Hampton, N.Y. He stressed that while 90% of battery charging occurs at home, utilities will need to invest more for charging stations along highways and also create strategies to avoid overload at peak times.

“Right now it’s a niche to use storage and you can make it work in niches, but it doesn’t have broad application,” said Falcone. “If you go back to prices 10 years from now as there are a lot more renewables on the grid it might have more application.”

While New York is progressing at a quick pace with renewable sources, neighboring Pennsylvania’s alternative energy standard requires just 18% of electricity sold by 2021 to be derived from renewables. Emily Schapira, executive director of the Philadelphia Energy Authority, said despite the state’s more conservative stance with energy, the city has aggressively sought green energy initiatives including a Solarize Philly program. She said while there hasn’t been much momentum with batteries, the Philadelphia Navy Yard is planning to expand its battery storage capabilities by up to seven megawatts this year.

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