New Solutions Toolkit Guides Regulators, Utilities in Improving Energy Storage Interconnection
Energy storage has a unique and pivotal role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy because it can help the electric grid accommodate more renewable energy. However, a number of barriers currently impede the process of connecting energy storage systems to the distribution grid. A new suite of actionable recommendations for regulators and utilities, launched today by a team of leading industry players, aims to change that.
The Toolkit and Guidance for the Interconnection of Energy Storage and Solar-Plus-Storage provides vetted, consensus-based solutions to eight regulatory and technical barriers to the interconnection of energy storage and solar-plus-storage systems to the distribution grid. These recommendations are based on over a year of research and analysis by utility and industry experts. The Toolkit also includes model language that utility regulators can use to update state interconnection rules to reduce the costs and time to safely interconnect energy storage and solar-plus-storage systems. The solutions are nationally applicable and can be applied in diverse states and markets across the U.S.
Adoption of these recommended solutions can have a significant impact on how many distributed energy resources (DERs), like residential and commercial solar PV systems, can be added to the grid. For example, original research for the Toolkit found that when energy storage is used to control the export of energy from DERs, the grid can host more DER capacity. In the most pronounced cases, modeling and simulation research found that using storage to limit DER export can double available DER capacity on a circuit!
The Toolkit is the result of a multi-year project called “BATRIES” (Building a Technically Reliable Interconnection Evolution for Storage), supported by a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. The project team is led by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and includes the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA), utilities New Hampshire Electric Cooperative Inc. (NHEC) and PacifiCorp, and law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP (SMW).
“By modernizing the rules that govern the interconnection of energy storage systems, regulators and utilities can enable significantly more renewable energy on the distribution grid—in some cases as much as double the capacity,” said Larry Sherwood, IREC President and CEO. “They can also make the interconnection process faster, predictable, and less costly for applicants. These changes are urgently needed as more and more states target bold climate and clean energy goals; fortunately, the Toolkit provides regulators with actionable and ready-to-implement guidance.”
Energy storage deployment is growing and interconnection rules have, for the most part, not yet been updated to reflect best practices on how they should be reviewed in the interconnection process. For example, ESS is unique from other DERs like solar and wind, because it can control how much energy is sent to the grid at different times. Interconnection rules historically have not recognized how storage operates differently from other electricity generators, leading to review processes that may be more likely to reject an interconnection request or require grid upgrades that may not be necessary. The Toolkit solutions address critical storage interconnection issues, including (but not limited to) how to safely and reliability address inadvertent export and solutions for interconnecting limited- and non-exporting systems.
“As the industry increases deployment of variable renewable energy sources to meet state, national and international climate targets, they’ll need to ensure sufficient energy storage and grid reliability,” said Rob Chapman, EPRI Senior Vice President of Energy Delivery and Customer Solutions. “This toolkit provides key guidance and offers potential solutions to assist regulators and energy stakeholders as they address interconnection challenges throughout the clean energy transition.”
“If we’re able to more efficiently connect energy storage to the grid, costs will plummet, making solar-plus-storage systems more affordable and accessible to families and businesses,” said Jeremiah Miller, Director of Storage Markets and Policy at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “This project will help us speed interconnection times and make it easier to connect solar-plus-storage systems of all sizes to the grid. By 2023, nearly one in four distributed generation solar systems could be paired with energy storage.”
“Problems with interconnection for energy storage systems, both big and small, are on the rise in California,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Executive Director of the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA). “Every policy maker and regulator who cares about energy reliability and the rapid deployment of clean energy solutions should pay attention to this toolkit today.”
“New Hampshire Electric Cooperative appreciates the opportunity to contribute in the important work of this study. Electric cooperatives across the country will benefit from the insight provided by the Toolkit,” said David Erickson, NHEC Director of Access and Distributed Resources. “We believe that the concerns of the cooperative community are represented in the Toolkit and that it will help make the benefits of storage and solar technologies accessible and affordable to more of our members.”
The Toolkit can be accessed at https://energystorageinterconnection.org/. Over the coming year, IREC and partners will conduct extensive training and educational outreach to drive adoption of the solutions across the country. Parties interested in receiving training or more information on the Toolkit can contact the partner team via the Toolkit website or sign up for an informational webinar on Tuesday, April 26, 2022 from noon-1pm Eastern Time here.
About IREC: The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) builds the foundation for rapid adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency to benefit people, the economy and our planet. IREC develops and advances the regulatory reforms, technical standards, and workforce solutions needed to enable the streamlined integration of clean, distributed energy resources. Learn more at www.irecusa.org.
About EPRI: Founded in 1972, EPRI is the world’s preeminent independent, non-profit energy research and development organization, with offices around the world. EPRI’s trusted experts collaborate with more than 450 companies in 45 countries, driving innovation to ensure the public has clean, safe, reliable, affordable, and equitable access to electricity across the globe. Together, we are shaping the future of energy. Learn more at www.epri.com.
About SEIA: The Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA) is leading the transformation to a clean energy economy, creating the framework for solar to achieve 20% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030. SEIA works with its 1,000 member companies and other strategic partners to fight for policies that create jobs in every community and shape fair market rules that promote competition and the growth of reliable, low-cost solar power. Founded in 1974, SEIA is a national trade association building a comprehensive vision for the Solar+ Decade through research, education and advocacy. Visit SEIA online at www.seia.org.
About CALSSA: The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) has advanced the common interest of the solar and storage industry for over 40 years, making California the most robust market in the U.S. The association is the state’s largest clean energy business group with over 720 member companies representing an array of businesses that manufacture, design, install, finance and provide other resources to the growing local solar and storage market in California. Learn more at www.calssa.org.
About PacifiCorp: PacifiCorp is one of the lowest-cost electricity producers in the United States, serving 1.9 million customers in the West. PacifiCorp operates as Pacific Power in Oregon, Washington and California, and as Rocky Mountain Power in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. The company works to meet growing energy demand while protecting and enhancing the environment. For more information, visit www.pacificorp.com.
About NHEC: New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) is a member-owned electric distribution cooperative serving 85,000 homes and businesses in 118 New Hampshire communities. For more information, visit www.nhec.com.
About SMW: Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP is a law firm specializing in renewable energy, government, land use, and environmental law. The firm has extensive experience with interconnection policy and energy storage issues and serves as IREC’s legal counsel in regulatory proceedings across the United States. Known for its commitment to promoting environmental and community values, SMW is at the forefront of clean energy issues facing the United States today. Learn more at www.smwlaw.com.
About the Solar Energy Technologies Office: The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more at energy.gov/solar-office.