A new tool published by IREC, Charging Ahead: An Energy Storage Guide for State Policymakers provides regulators and other decision makers with specific guidance on key issues for policy consideration, including foundational policies for advanced energy storage—a new generation of technologies characterized by flexible operating capabilities and diverse applications.

The characteristics that make energy storage so valuable and attractive also make it challenging to address in policy and regulatory contexts.

Despite its game-changing potential to transform the electricity system, energy storage is vastly underutilized in the U.S. electricity sector. Its deployment remains hampered by the current features of regional, state and federal regulatory frameworks, traditional utility planning and decision-making paradigms, electricity markets, and aspects of the technology itself.

To date, state policymakers and electric system stakeholders have largely navigated energy storage issues without the benefit of a roadmap to inform key regulatory and policy pathways for widespread deployment.

Charging Ahead aims to address that gap by providing an in-depth discussion of the most urgent actions to take in order to enable viable energy storage markets that effectively empower states to take advantage of the full suite of advanced energy storage capabilities. The guide identifies four foundational policy actions states should consider taking:

  1. Clarify How Energy Storage Systems are Classified to Enable Shared Ownership and Operation Functions in Restructured Markets
  2. Require Proactive Consideration of Energy Storage in Utility Planning Effort
  3. Create Mechanisms to Capture the Full Value Stream of Storage Services
  4. Ensure Fair, Streamlined, and Cost Effective Grid Access for Energy Storage System

In addition to these foundational policies, the report provides background on energy storage applications, analyzes regulatory actions states are currently taking, and also puts some context around the valuation of energy storage.

Energy storage systems provide a flexible solution to serve energy needs and address existing and emerging challenges on the grid. Integrating energy storage strategically across the electricity system results in more efficient utilization of other grid resources, defers or supplants more costly upgrades or investments in traditional infrastructure, and increases the range of operational capabilities for the entire electric system. Advanced energy storage technologies have matured rapidly in recent years and installations are quickly accelerating across the U.S.

“Deploying energy storage at scale and optimizing its benefits will require innovative and forward-thinking policies to integrate it into existing electric system operations and state regulatory frameworks,” explains IREC Regulatory Director Sara Baldwin Auck. “With more storage being deployed and leading states gaining more experience, foundational policy actions and informative lessons learned are emerging. With this fact-based navigational tool and resource guide in hand, more states can begin to charge ahead on a course to build a robust framework that includes energy storage in their respective markets.”

The guide was released at the Energy Storage Association’s 27th Annual Conference and Expo in Denver, CO, which focuses on shaping the future of the U.S. energy storage market. “IREC’s comprehensive policy guide gives decision makers a clear pathway for the continued expansion of energy storage,” said ESA Executive Director Matt Roberts. “Charging Ahead provides expert guidance, best practices from leading states, and demonstrable outcomes and strategies that are leveraging energy storage to create a more flexible, sustainable and affordable electric network.”

An Executive Summary of the guide is also available.

Guide co-author Sky Stanfield, an attorney at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP who represents IREC in storage proceedings, unveiled the guide on a featured panel at the conference.

“As IREC works in numerous diverse states across the country, we consistently observe that while the market players are ready to act, the regulatory structure is not keeping up with them. This guide is intended to alter that paradigm and encourage states to proactively adopt policy and regulatory solutions that address energy storage barriers more holistically and help set a glide path for the widespread integration of energy storage technologies on the grid,” says Stanfield.

Recognizing that policymakers and regulators often face limitations on time and resources, the guide provides state policymakers and regulators with systematic, foundational information on advanced energy storage – a one-stop-shop reference.

“State leadership and innovation on landmark energy policy issues, including energy storage and its more robust integration on the grid, will help expedite and optimize the electricity sector transformation already underway,” says IREC President/CEO Larry Sherwood. “By proactively integrating energy storage technologies into today’s policy and regulatory decisions, states can lead the charge to enhance the cost-effectiveness, reliability, quality and functionality of the energy sector.”

“Beyond taking proactive steps on storage, continued policy leadership will ensure identified challenges are met with innovative, yet practical solutions that set the stage for market growth,” says IREC’s Sherwood.

Auck adds: “While policy and regulatory frameworks are the foundation upon which future growth will be built, peer-to-peer sharing among states and leveraging the wealth of information gleaned to date from pilot projects and active programs will ensure that replication of successful approaches occur more swiftly.”