Barriers to Electric Energy Storage


The goal of this project was to identify barriers to electric energy storage development so that the industry and policymakers can implement solutions to address the barriers that may lead to further development of electric energy storage in the Western Interconnection.


February 28, 2017: The Western Interstate Energy Board (WIEB) has developed a white paper that explores storage technologies and the barriers associated with electric energy storage development in the Western Interconnection. The white paper was sponsored by the Colorado Energy Office and the Western Interstate Energy Board.

Link to: Whitepaper


April 12, 2017: At the Joint Meeting of the Committee on Regional Electric Power Cooperation (CREPC) and the Western Interconnection Regional Advisory Body (WIRAB) in Boise, ID, a session on electric energy storage is scheduled to be on the agenda at 1:00 PM MT on April 12, 2017. For more information about the meeting, its agenda, and the session on electric energy storage, go to:


There has been energy storage renaissance that has been driven by a multitude of factors including:

  • Increased adoption of variable renewable generating resources like wind and solar photovoltaics;
  • Increased adoption of behind the meter generation;
  • Increased participation from consumers in their energy consumption;
  • Increased reliance on a reliable grid;
  • And more…

At small penetrations of variable resources, the system does not have much trouble reliably integrating the resources into the system, but as the penetration levels increase, that integration is much more challenging and the system becomes more complex. The system must simultaneously be balanced between supply and demand (generation and load). When there are times of over generation from resources like wind and solar that have essentially free fuel sources, but uncontrollable/un-storable fuel, there is an opportunity to store electricity energy to be used when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. This has also lead to the opportunity for further research and development that has started to decrease the cost for various storage technologies.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Global Energy Storage Database (HERE), in 2016 pumped hydroelectric storage makes up approximately 94%, or 22,560 MW, of the total energy storage capacity in the United States (24,560 MW total). Thermal-storage makes up approximately 53% or 820 MW of the remaining 6% of energy storage capacity in the U.S., followed by electro-chemical (battery storage) at 37% or 570 MW, and electro-mechanical (flywheels or compress air energy storage) at 11% or 171 MW. Over the past 20 years, the growth in the electric energy storage sector capacity has come primarily through electro-chemical energy storage (batteries) and large-scale thermal storage associated with large concentrated solar facilities. Much of the pumped hydroelectric energy storage in the U.S. was built and commissioned prior to 1996, primarily during the 1960s, 70s and early 1980s.


Although there has been recent renaissance in the development of storage technologies in the electric sector, there remain barriers like technology costs, business models, technical modeling and policies that are obstructing the increased development of energy storage on the grid. The goal of this project was to identify barriers to electric energy storage development so that the industry and policymakers can implement solutions to address the barriers.


The barriers to the deployment of electric energy storage explored include:

  • Costs
  • Business Model / Market Risks
  • Technology Risks
  • Modeling Challenges
  • Regulatory Barriers
Next Steps

In addition to outreach, WIEB and its committees are exploring next steps in addressing these barriers to electric storage and is open to ideas from stakeholders and the public at large.


For more information about this project, please contact Eric Baran at the Western Interstate Energy Board; email: