After sector outcry, Massachusetts energy chief defends 200 MWh storage target
Some storage interests expected a higher target, but DOER defends it as a first step in a comprehensive plan
Unveiled just before the July 4th holiday, Massachusetts’ new energy storage target left a bittersweet taste with many battery companies.
On July 1, the state’s Department of Energy Resources set a target for the state’s electric distribution companies to procure an aggregate of 200 MWh of energy storage by Jan. 1, 2020. But the State of Charge report that the DOER issued in September 2016 had said that the state could support a 600 MW energy storage target.
“The 200 MWh target is slightly under par even after accounting for potential market ramping from 2020 to 2025, as costs keep coming down and market is more mature,” said Ravi Manghani, director, energy storage at GTM Research.
And Timothy Fox, vice president and research analyst at Clearview Energy Partners, said the target set was “far more modest than broad stakeholder expectations.”
Fox also noted that the DOER target is less stringent than proposals offered by the state’s electric companies. “Unitil, Eversource and National Grid collectively recommended voluntary targets of 200 MW, 500 MWh by 2020, and 600 MW, 1,500 MWh by 2025.”
But “the key to understanding the target is the time frame,” said Judith Judson, Commissioner of DOER.
The 600 MW target recommended in the State of Charge report was for a 2025 timeframe. The recently set target has a 2020 target date to coincide with the deadlines in Massachusetts’ comprehensive energy bill signed in August 2016.
The energy storage target is “more aggressive than what was required in the law, Judson noted, but she also notes that there are several other programs aimed at bolstering energy storage, and they should all work in concert to move storage forward in Massachusetts.
“The new target sets up the state perfectly for hitting the 600 MW target by 2025,” she said.
In addition to the recent energy storage target, the DOER has implemented several measures to promote energy storage in Massachusetts since the State of Charge report was released last year,
Judson said Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to offer incentives for combining solar power installations with energy storage through its Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program. And the state’s ongoing solicitation for 1,600 MW of offshore wind also allows for pairing storage with wind resources.
DOER also offers grants for community energy storage under its Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative. And through the Peak Demand Reduction Grant Program offers funding for energy storage projects. And in March, DOER with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center launched the second phase of the state’s Energy Storage Initiative, a $10 million grant program for energy storage demonstration projects labeled Advancing Energy Storage (ACES).
Any projects coming out of those programs could count toward the state’s energy storage target, as long as the stored energy flows through an electric distribution company. Municipal utilities are not subject to the target.
The idea, said Judson, is to create an ecosystem in which energy storage can be developed as a least cost option within a portfolio a diverse energy solutions.
That is also the rationale behind expressing the target in megawatt-hours rather than megawatts. A lot of consideration and stakeholder feedback went into that decision, said Judson.
In that process, a high value was put on energy storage projects that can reduce peak demand, which requires longer duration technologies such as flow batteries. A high value was also put on short-duration storage applications that can provide grid adjustments, such as flywheel storage. By expressing the target in megawatt-hours, Judson said the DOER is encouraging more flexibility in the types of storage projects that will be proposed.
The department head also stresses that the storage target is just one step in a larger, “comprehensive plan.”
DOER’s target requires the electric companies to make annual reports on their storage procurements. That will provide the DOER with real time information that Judson says will be used to move energy storage to the next step and “to set new targets based on what we learn.”
“What is clear to us is that the DOER has left the door open to expansion of the program in the future,” said Fox. “DOER explicitly refers to this target as the first of several steps. Future policies could include expanding the state’s renewable power mandate to include energy storage.”
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