January 19, 2024

A newly published study in Energy Policy, led by doctoral student Rui Shan and Noah Kittner, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, examined the environmental and economic tradeoffs for energy storage projects, considering the implications of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 in the United States. 

The Inflation Reduction Act was an investment in addressing climate change by creating new incentives for clean energy technology such as installing energy storage systems or batteries on the grid.  

“This is one of the first rigorous analyses that includes new legislation from the Inflation Reduction Act on the potential for energy storage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the economy for different states,” says Kittner.

Dr. Noah Kittner

Dr. Noah Kittner

Researchers used the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReDS) model to analyze the environmental and financial impacts of using batteries on the grid.

“It can replace coal, but we find that some states need to add more solar and wind to the grid to avoid increasing the use of coal indirectly when storing electricity,” says Kittner. 

More importantly, the study provides information on how states can adapt their storage policies and targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster and make utility scale energy storage projects more cost-effective.  

“Some of the states, such as North Carolina, may actually increase greenhouse gas emissions in the short term with storage unless further renewable investments are made to complement batteries – while states such as California could benefit from more energy storage but could require more policy incentives to ensure projects attract outside investors at a rapid enough pace to meet climate targets,” says Kittner. 

This study considers future pathways of cleaning the U.S. grid while weighing the environmental and financial impact of adding energy storage systems. Researchers found that for some states, batteries were profitable now, but they might not reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as placing the batteries in other states.  

Researchers also evaluated where storage is profitable and where storage may reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, in N.C., installing more energy storage today may not reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as in California – even though it may be more financially feasible to install batteries here in N.C.  

The study also suggests that states such as N.C. may need to add more solar and wind capacity to the grid than what is already planned – in addition to energy storage – to take advantage of the carbon emission reductions and maximize the public health and environmental benefits of energy storage systems. 

“This analysis will hopefully inspire more states to consider their overall strategic plan when installing energy storage so that we can reduce carbon emissions on the electric grid in the fastest way possible, while being able to take advantage of wind and solar energy without relying on as many fossil fuels for consumption,” says Kittner.

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