Managing the Future of the Electricity Grid: Energy Storage and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

59 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2017 Last revised: 10 May 2019

See all articles by Richard L. Revesz

Richard L. Revesz

New York University School of Law

Burcin Unel

Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law

Date Written: June 4, 2017

Abstract

Recent advances in technology and the consequent decline in manufacturing costs are making energy storage systems a central element of energy and climate change policy debates across the nation. Energy storage systems have the potential to provide many benefits such as lower electricity prices at peak demand times, deferred or avoided new capacity investments, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, both federal and state policymakers are enthusiastically encouraging more energy storage deployment with the belief that energy storage systems will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector by making intermittent and variable renewable energy resources such as solar and wind more attractive.

This Article challenges this common assumption that increased energy storage will necessarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We first explore the conditions under which energy storage systems can cause an increase in greenhouse gas emissions contrary to the intent of the policymakers. As policymakers start to rely more heavily on energy storage systems to achieve clean energy goals, this insight is crucial to inform the stakeholders in the energy and climate policy debates. Furthermore, we show that the current regulatory and policy landscape falls short of providing sufficient incentives for a desirable level of deployment of energy storage or sufficient safeguards to ensure that more energy storage deployment is indeed beneficial. We suggest policy reforms that can correct these inefficiencies and discuss the jurisdictional roles between state and federal regulators in implementing these reforms.

Keywords: cost-benefit analysis, utilities, electricity, energy, energy storage, energy policy, energy regulation

JEL Classification: K, K23, K32, Q, Q30, Q38, Q41, Q48, L94

Suggested Citation

Revesz, Richard L. and Unel, Burcin, Managing the Future of the Electricity Grid: Energy Storage and Greenhouse Gas Emissions (June 4, 2017). 42 Harvard Environmental Law Review 139 (2018); NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 17-27; NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 17-25. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2981290

Richard L. Revesz (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States
212-998-6185 (Phone)
212-995-4590 (Fax)

Burcin Unel

Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law ( email )

139 MacDougal St
New York, NY 10012
United States

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