Use it or lose it. Few products in the world have a shorter shelf life than electricity. That's why pretty much everyone involved in the power sector — from utilities to buyers to startups to state regulators — is putting more energy than ever behind ways to extend it. That's fueling a boom in projects and investments centered on advanced battery chemistries and alternative energy storage approaches, such as hydrogen fuel cells and thermal options that use hot water or ice to conserve power. The holy grail over time is to create a network of resources that can be used in concert with solar and wind farms. The idea is to balance those intermittent renewable resources, help their production output become more predictable and make it easier to integrate distributed power plants into the grid.