Opportunities for Industry to Provide Flexibility While Increasing Profitability

David Garfield, Paige Jadun, Shannon Hwang, Mark O'Malley, Mark Ruth

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Supply and demand flexibility will both be needed to ensure the electricity system functions properly as the share from variable renewable generation continues to grow. Industrial manufacturing currently consumes about a third of primary energy worldwide, and electricity is projected to supply an increasing share of this demand as the global economy decarbonizes. Therefore, the ability for industry to flex demand poses an enticing opportunity to enable grid flexibility. However, large capital outlays prevent industry from voluntarily altering demand. Here we show that as battery costs continue to fall, industry will soon be able to profitably alter demand in accordance with electricity price variations. Focusing on two established industries– chlor-alkali and electric arc furnaces – and two industries with large future potential – methane pyrolysis and atmospheric CO2 capture, we use a linear program (LP) optimization to assess the technoeconomic feasibility of flexible industrial demand across both historical and future-looking wholesale day-ahead marginal prices for the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). We find positive net present values (NPV) from $400K to $50M using projected 2050 battery prices for industrial purchase of behind-the-meter batteries, using only arbitrage as a source of value. These results indicate that, with projected battery prices, profit-seeking industrial players could voluntarily play a future role in stabilizing a high-renewables grid where electricity prices act as accurate signals of grid needs.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages35
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A50-75784


  • decarbonization
  • electrification
  • energy storage
  • grid flexibility
  • heavy industry


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