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What is Energy Storage?

Broadly speaking, energy storage allows us to shift energy through time - taking a quantity of energy produced at one point of time and storing it until a later time when we have a use for it. Critically, storage is a process that we facilitate - the fact that fossil fuels are essentially stores of energy produced by the sun millions of years ago does not qualify them for inclusion as energy storage in the contemporary sense of the word. 

While stores of fossil fuel products may indeed be considered forms of energy storage (think strategic petroleum reserves, natural gas present in pipeline infrastructure, etc.), more often when we think of energy storage today it is in reference to the storage of electrical energy, i.e., electricity. The stability of electricity grids depends on our ability to match demand and supply - a feat which gets more complicated as more intermittent sources of energy, like wind and solar power, are introduced onto the grid. Energy storage technology can thus provide a range of services to electricity grids that can help to make them more reliable, and more sustainable.

This database is dedicated primarily to electricity storage activities in Canada, or energy storage activities that connect with electricity grids in some fashion (e.g., power-to-gas storage)

There are a number of different technologies for storing electricity, some of which have been in use for many years (like the pumped hydro system at the Sir Adam Beck generating station on the Niagara river in Ontario). Others, such as flywheels, solid state and flow batteries are relatively new and yet to be demonstrated at grid-level scale. This is changing rapidly, however. Interest in energy storage, at the level of the grid but also in the end-use sector, among homeowners, commercial and industrial users, has been steadily increasing over the past five years.

Nevertheless, the future of energy storage - both in terms of the rate at which it will be adopted and the impact it will have on electricity systems - is full of uncertainties. One such uncertainty concerns the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of users at all levels toward the technology; in short, the social acceptance of energy storage.

Project Administrators

Dr. Ian Rowlands

Associate Vice-President, International, Professor

School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability
Environment 2, Room 2036

University of Waterloo
200 University Ave W.,
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
N2L 3G1

Dr. James Gaede

Postdoctoral Fellow

School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability
Environment 2, Room 2031

University of Waterloo
200 University Ave W.,
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
N2L 3G1