Massachusetts Gears Up for Energy Storage Grant Program

The report on energy storage released by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) on September 16 put forward a bevy of policy proposals that have reinvigorated discussions of energy storage in the Commonwealth.  A key policy initiative that seems certain to be implemented is the Advancing Commonwealth Energy storage (ACES) Program a $10 million, competitive grant program for energy storage projects to be administered by MassCEC and DOER.  MassCEC authorized funds for ACES on September 20, shortly after Judith Judson, Commissioner of DOER, elaborated on the energy storage report and the administration’s policy goals as one of several speakers at an Energy Storage Forum event presented by Foley Hoag and the Northeast Clean Energy Council (video below).

What will the ACES program look like, and what types of projects will it support?  While the details are still being developed, DOER and MassCEC are likely to administer the program to support an array of different “use cases” identified in their recent report: utility (or municipal light plant) owned, load serving entity owned, behind-the-meter commercial and industrial, behind-the-meter residential (with or without utility dispatch), merchant owned with a wholesale focus, merchant owned storage with solar, storage co-located with traditional generation, and microgrid applications. MassCEC currently expects that about 70% of the grant funds would go to projects that provide benefits to the electric or gas distribution systems, and 30% to behind-the-meter projects.

Indications are that MassCEC will look for not just business model diversity, but also geographic and socio-economic diversity when making awards.  Projects that promote other DOER and MassCEC goals, such as projects that propose to use energy storage resources to support or augment the benefits of renewable energy technologies, projects that have the potential to reduce ratepayer costs, projects that defer distribution system investments, and projects that reduce peak energy consumption, may also be favored.  And, as the program is aimed at sparking energy storage deployment, projects that can be operational within 18 months may also have a leg up.

MassCEC is expecting applicants to include teams of entities, such as clean energy companies, public entities, utilities, academic institutions, and nonprofits, with a lead entity positioned to contract with MassCEC.  MassCEC currently envisions making 10-15 awards to support roughly 5 MW of energy storage.  However, the size of the program could increase; the energy storage report proposed expanding the program to $20 million.  An RFP is likely later this year.

Watch the Energy Storage Forum:

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