One of the distinctive characteristics of the electric power sector is that the amount of electricity that can be generated is relatively fixed over short periods of time, although demand for electricity fluctuates throughout the day. Developing technology to store electrical energy so it can be available to meet demand whenever needed would represent a major breakthrough in electricity distribution. Helping to try and meet this goal, electricity storage devices can manage the amount of power required to supply customers at times when need is greatest, which is during peak load. These devices can also help make renewable energy, whose power output cannot be controlled by grid operators, smooth and dispatchable.
They can also balance microgrids to achieve a good match between generation and load. Storage devices can provide frequency regulation to maintain the balance between the network's load and power generated, and they can achieve a more reliable power supply for high tech industrial facilities. Thus, energy storage and power electronics hold substantial promise for transforming the electric power industry.
High voltage power electronics, such as switches, inverters, and controllers, allow electric power to be precisely and rapidly controlled to support long distance transmission. This capability will allow the system to respond effectively to disturbances and to operate more efficiently, thereby reducing the need for additional infrastructure. A major challenge being addressed by DOE is to reduce the cost of energy storage technology and power electronics and to accelerate market acceptance.