CHAPTER ELEVENThe Rise of Energy Storage

The US electric grid is an engineering marvel. It starts with large, utility-owned generation facilities. Engineers designed these for one-way energy flows: from the generator to the end user. For over 100 years, this is how we've made and used electricity. It's fundamental to our lives. It's the power behind 40 percent of everything we do. It powers the $74 trillion global economy. The grid has largely operated without the ability to store the product it delivers. But that's all about to change. The current system is technologically inflexible. What's more, big utilities control most of it. And most of the time, their interests aren't aligned with their customers in mind, but rather their shareholders. Simple buy-sell transactions and electric market structures govern electricity sales between utilities and between a utility and the customer. It's all highly regulated by state public utility commissions (PUCs).

Today's energy supplies are rapidly changing. Wind and solar power are on the rise. In Chapter 4, I discussed how solar energy is making up an increasingly larger share of our energy supply. Now, energy users with solar panels can send their excess power to the grid, which means the number of energy suppliers overall to today's grid is rapidly increasing. This combination results in complex, two-way energy flows.

The grid is gradually becoming smarter. We're starting to see digital control of the electromechanical infrastructure. ...

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