Thermal Energy Storage and California's Draft Energy Action Plan

More Thermal Energy Storage Info

On April 16, 2003, the State of California published a Draft Energy Action Plan. Parts of this Plan are particularly encouraging to proponents of thermal energy storage. Below are a few quotes, highlights and statistics from the Plan that support an optimistic outlook for thermal energy storage.

  • The Plan's Number One action item: "Implement a voluntary dynamic pricing system to reduce peak demand by as much as 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts by 2007."

  • Other action items include: "Create customer incentives for aggressive energy demand reduction." And, "Provide utilities with demand response and energy efficiency investment rewards comparable to the return on investment in new power and transmission projects."

  • The Action Plan points out that California has the fifth largest economy in the world with a population that is expected to exceed 40 million by 2010. Quoting from the Plan, "California's economic prosperity and quality of life are increasingly reliant upon dependable, high quality, and reasonably priced energy. It is imperative that California have reasonably priced and environmentally sensitive energy resources to support economic growth..."

According to the Plan, the state currently uses 265,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year and consumption is growing at 2 percent annually. Almost one third of the in-state generation base is over 40 years old. In the area of new generation capacity, the Plan estimates a statewide need for 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts per year.

The Plan indicates that a peak electrical demand of 52,863 megawatts occurred in July, 2002 and,

  • "Peak demand is growing at 2.3 percent per year, roughly the equivalent of three new 500-megawatt power plants. Residential and commercial air conditioning represent at least 30 percent of the summer peak electricity loads." .... "Peak demand growth is expected to be approximately 1,400 MW per year for the next two years..."

Sections of the plan reveal that while 29 to 42 percent of California's generation used natural gas over the past decade, 85 percent of the gas is supplied by pipelines from outside the state. The Plan also warns that, "The high and volatile price of natural gas contributed significantly to the energy crisis in 2000-2001 and concerns about manipulation of the market and scarcity persist."

Although thermal energy storage is not the primary focus of the Plan, it is clear that this technology offers one important means by which the Plan can be achieved. Thermal energy storage is an environmentally friendly alternative to new power plant construction and is capable of meeting and reducing peak demands. Thermal energy storage is equivalent to new generation capacity without direct vulnerability to the supply or price of natural gas. Thermal energy storage is a proven and cost effective technology that should be even more attractive as dynamic pricing policies for electricity and incentives for demand reduction, as envisioned in the state's plan, are implemented.

Acknowledgement: Quotes are taken from the Draft Energy Action Plan published April 16, 2003 under the seal of the California Public Utility Commission, Consumer Power and Conservation Financing Authority and Energy Resources and Conservation and Development Commission.

Copies of the Draft Plan are available in .pdf format from Cryogel at the email address below.

Opinions and summary by: Victor J. Ott, P.E.
President of Cryogel, San Diego, CA (858) 457-1837 ;
Cryogel has been an ARI Member Company since 1991

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