Massachusetts’ Summer of Storage

HiResCalifornia has been a national leader in promoting policies to support the deployment of energy storage resources.  The California Public Utility Commission’s directive that California utilities procure 1,325 MW of energy storage through biennial procurements has spurred significant excitement and economic activity as have capacity procurements that required a portion of need to be met with energy storage.  (The California Roadmap, prepared by the California Independent System Operator, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Energy Commission in December, provides an outline of both California’s efforts to date and its approach to future action items.)  A recent burst of activity by Massachusetts policy makers holds out promise that the Bay State may soon take steps in a similar direction.

In May, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center launched an “Energy Storage Initiative” that will pair a state financed study of market opportunities and policy options with $10 million in funding for demonstration projects.  The goals of the Energy Storage Initiative are “to make Massachusetts a national leader in the deployment and effective use of these innovative energy technology solutions” and to create “a robust energy storage market.”

Not coincidentally, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities convened a stakeholder conference last week to explore regulatory issues, especially regulatory barriers, related to the deployment of energy storage resources in Massachusetts.  The well-attended event sparked discussion about the various services that energy storage resources can provide across traditional categories – transmission, distribution, and generation – and how to monetize the various benefits that adding energy storage resources to the system will produce.  Creating a clear and effective regulatory framework for new energy storage resources will be critical to allowing market forces to drive deployment, and the Department of Public Utilities may well follow up this conference with a more formal investigation or rule-making.

All of this activity is intimately linked to Massachusetts’ ongoing “grid modernization” process.  Nine months have passed quickly, and the Massachusetts electric distribution companies will be filling their first ten-year grid modernization plans the first week in August.  These plans will present the electric distribution companies’ initial proposals for “modernizing” Massachusetts’ electric grid over the next ten years, and they should include a prominent place for energy storage.  Will we see creative approaches to promoting the deployment of energy storage resources in the electric distribution companies’ plans?  And, if not, will the Department of Public Utilities require amendments to those plans to set up processes and programs that encourage that deployment?  Will Massachusetts adopt an approach to energy storage deployment as ambitious as that underway in California, and how will Massachusetts’ approach differ from California’s?  The upcoming proceedings at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to review the grid modernization plans an opportunity for the diverse energy storage industry to influence the immediate and longer-term investment environment for storage in Massachusetts.

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