Energy storage at utility scale just got a $100M vote of confidence from one of the world's largest utilities.
NextEra Energy wants to be "the largest, most profitable clean energy provider in the United States," according to Jim Robo, CEO of the utility giant, at an analyst conference at Wolfe Research in New York on Tuesday. (Here's a link to audio from the event.)
But Robo also said, "We're starting to make very good progress in our energy storage business," noting that energy storage is one of "three growth platforms" at NextEra.
When a player like NextEra Energy, a Fortune 200 firm with utility revenues of $17 billion and 44,900 megawatts of generating capacity, starts to tout energy storage, the utility industry and the renewables industry take notice. “Battery storage is the holy grail of the renewables business,” said the CEO, adding, “If we can deliver firm power to renewable customers at a cost-effective rate, you’ll see renewables explode even faster than they already are.”
“This has the potential to be an extremely big market"
According to the CEO, "We're going to deploy probably $100 million in [energy storage] projects in the next 12 months in places like PJM, California and Arizona."
These projects will mostly be for frequency regulation, but there's also a 4-hour project being deployed next year and an R&D project with storage "deployed at substations to drive reliability." Robo noted that energy storage "isn't going to be just to firm renewables." He suggested it will be used in a variety of applications such as "reliability purposes and transmission avoidance."
Robo said that he and his team expect energy storage prices to experience a similar cost plunge to that of solar costs over the last seven years. If that happens, energy storage will be competitive with gas peaker plants.
Robo said, "Post-2020, there may never be another peaker built in the United States -- very likely you'll be just building energy storage instead."
"It is a great time to be in the renewables business," said Robo, adding that he also believes the wind production tax credit will be extended.
NextEra is one of the leading producers of wind and solar power in the world. So, it's worth noting when NextEra's CEO says, "I want to be the leader in energy storage in the country."