Storage Futures Study

The Storage Futures Study (SFS) considers when and where a range of storage technologies are cost-competitive, depending on how they're operated and what services they provide for the grid.

Graphic of five icons interconnected with lines, including hydrogen, batteries, pumped hydropower, wind, solar, and a globe to represent diverse storage technologies and how they contribute to the grid.
The SFS considers when and where a range of storage technologies are cost-competitive, depending on how they're operated and what services they provide for the grid.

Through the SFS, NREL is analyzing the potentially fundamental role of energy storage in maintaining a resilient, flexible electrical grid through the year 2050.

In this multiyear study, analysts are leveraging NREL energy storage projects, data, and tools to explore the role and impact of relevant and emerging energy storage technologies in the U.S. power sector across a range of potential future cost and performance scenarios through the year 2050.

The SFS—supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Storage Grand Challenge—is designed to examine the potential impact of energy storage technology advancement on the deployment of utility-scale storage and the adoption of distributed storage as well as the implications for future power system operations.

The SFS team has released reports on a conceptual framework for a high-storage future; cost and performance data for storage, wind, solar photovoltaics, and natural gas; scenarios for the evolution of diurnal storage within the U.S. electricity sector through 2050; and drivers of customer adoption of distributed storage. Forthcoming reports will explore implications of widespread storage deployment and broader insights across the study.


Technical Report: Distributed Solar and Storage Outlook: Methodology and Scenarios

Webinar: Recording

The fourth report in the series, released July 2021, examines the drivers of customer adoption of behind-the-meter battery storage. Analysts expanded capabilities of NREL's Distributed Generation Market Demand model to simulate customer decisions about whether to adopt distributed storage paired with PV under different scenarios. These scenarios use technology cost and performance assumptions consistent with the 2020 NREL Standard Scenarios paired with updated battery cost projections and existing policies. Additional scenarios evaluate sensitivities to the value of backup power and distributed energy resource compensation mechanisms, collectively characterizing the future potential for behind-the-meter storage and identifying key drivers of adoption.

Technical Report: Economic Potential of Diurnal Storage in the U.S. Power Sector

Data: U.S. economic potential of diurnal storage data

Webinar: Recording and presentation slides

The third report in the series, released May 2021, models the evolution of diurnal storage (<12 hours) within the U.S. electricity sector through 2050 using a least-cost optimization framework. Analysts find significant market potential for diurnal energy storage across a variety of scenarios using different cost and performance assumptions for storage, wind, solar photovoltaics (PV), and natural gas. Across all scenarios modelled, energy storage deployment exceeds 125 gigawatts by 2050, more than a five-fold increase from 23 gigawatts (all of which is pumped-hydro) of installed capacity in 2020. Depending on cost trajectories and other variables, 2050 storage deployment totals up to 680 gigawatts, largely driven by system flexibility and greater PV penetration on the grid.

Technical Report: Energy Storage Technology Modeling Input Data

Data: Model input data

The second report in the series, released May 2021, provides a broad view of energy storage technologies and inputs for forthcoming reports that will feature scenario analysis. This report also presents a synthesis of current cost and performance characteristics of energy storage technologies for storage durations ranging from minutes to months and includes mechanical, thermal, and electrochemical storage technologies for the electricity sector. The analysis covers a broad range of storage technologies that are currently receiving significant attention from the investment community, as well as in the media. In addition, for a smaller set of technologies—primarily lithium-ion batteries—this report provides current and future cost trends until 2050, which is intended for scenario analysis at both the bulk power and distribution system scales.

Technical Report: The Four Phases of Utility-Scale Energy Storage Deployment: A Framework for the Expanding Role of Storage in the U.S. Power System

Webinar: Recording and presentation slides

Released January 2021, the first report in the SFS series presents a first-of-its-kind visionary framework for the possible evolution of the stationary energy storage industry—and the power system as a whole. The vision outlines four phases from shorter to longer storage duration, which could result in hundreds of gigawatts of installed capacity and a significant shift in our electric grid, helping utilities, regulators, and developers plan for the future. Many concepts presented in the report will be further explored in upcoming SFS studies, including detailed results of the modeling and analysis of power system evolution scenarios and their operational implications.

Summary of the Four Phases of Storage Deployment
Phase Primary Services National Deployment Potential (Capacity) in Each Phase Duration Response Speed
Deployment prior to 2010 Peaking capacity, energy time-shifting, and operating reserves 23 GW of pumped storage hydropower Mostly 8–12 hr Varies
1 Operating reserves <30 GW <1 hr Milliseconds to seconds
2 Peaking capacity 30–100 GW, strongly linked to photovoltaics deployment 2–6 hr Minutes
3 Diurnal capacity and energy time shifting 100+ GW; depends on both Phase 2 and deployment of variable renewable energy resources 4–12 hr Minutes
4 Multiday to seasonal capacity and energy time-shifting Zero to more than 250 gigawatts >12 hr Minutes
This publication will assess the operation and associated value streams of energy storage in evolution scenarios and explore the implications of storage on grid operations. Coming in 2021.
This report will synthesize and summarize findings from the entire SFS series, and related analyses and reports, to identify topics for future research. Coming in 2022.

In the News

The Storage Futures Study is featured in news. Read recent articles and publications that highlight the study.

Supporting Data and Analysis

Under the SFS, researchers are leveraging supporting NREL data and analyses to study energy storage technologies at unprecedented scale:

dGen (Distributed Generation Market Demand Model)

Electrification Futures Study

Energy Storage Grand Challenge

PLEXOS Power Systems Modeling

ReEDS Scenario Analysis

Annual Technology Baseline

Technical Review Committee

To develop and refine the highest priorities, the SFS partners with a technical review committee, including the University of Maryland, Stanford University, Argonne National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, NextEra Analytics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, New York Independent System Operator, Fluence Energy, Carnegie Mellon University, First Solar, Imperial College- London, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, U.S. Energy Information Agency, and Xcel Energy.


Nate Blair

Group Manager, Distributed Systems and Storage Analysis