by Julian Spector
May 25, 2018

When we decided to throw an event titled "Energy Storage Versus Natural Gas," it was bound to include some provocation.

The attendees rose to the spirit of the event. There were consistently robust conversations on stage, as experts grappled with a future that is very much still undecided. Some of the most insightful comments I heard pushed back against the very framing of the conversation.

In this week's column, I'll share what I learned at the show by engaging with the foremost critiques.

Catch the full sessions in high-definition video right here.

It’s not either/or

Perhaps no strong dichotomy survives in reality.

I heard from several observers that the "storage versus gas" framing setup contrived tension that doesn’t reflect reality.

I’d note that we have seen discrete cases where a specific gas plant would have been approved by regulators, if not for the pesky rise of energy storage. The emergence of the storage alternative forced a reevaluation of the Puente plant, leading to a determination that the full gas plant would not be needed after all.

Glendale, too, put its $500 million gas peaker on hold to explore distributed energy options. First Solar nabbed a contract for peak power that gas plant developers had competed for.

In these specific examples, storage and gas really did engage in zero-sum competition. But these cases number in the handful. Storage plus gas has a much wider potential, at least in the short term.

Newly minted GE Storage CEO Rob Morgan said it best in his interview Monday: “It’s an ‘and’ conversation for us, not an ‘or’ conversation.”