Regulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage

Regulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage
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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voted Thursday to implement rules that are designed to remove barriers to grid-level batteries that store electricity.

The new regulation requires that electric grid operators pay and treat storage operations similarly to how they treat power plants.

“This order will enhance competition and promote greater efficiency in the nation’s electric wholesale markets, and will help support the resilience of the bulk power system,” the commission said in a statement after its vote.

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All five of the commissioners — three Republicans and two Democrats — voted in favor of the proposal.

“Not only is this rulemaking a win for both consumers and industry, but it is also the kind of positive regulatory action that removes barriers to competition, allowing emerging technologies to compete in the marketplace,” said Commissioner Neil ChatterjeeIndranil (Neil) ChatterjeeOvernight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets Journalists take a trip down the rabbit hole at CNN's 'Alice in Wonderland'-themed brunch Regulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage MORE, a Republican.

“It is something of a cliche to refer to electric storage as a game changer, but it is also true. Given the ongoing changes in our nation’s resource mix, and the changing capabilities needed to serve customers, electric storage is poised to provide a critically important role,” said Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, a Democrat.

Storage technology has made significant strides in recent years, but still plays a relatively small role in the electricity mix. Only about 23 gigawatts of storage capacity is in operation nationwide, the vast majority of which is hydroelectric plants that can pump in reverse to store water that can later be run through the plant, according to the Energy Information Administration.

One of the primary uses for electricity storage is to take power during periods of low demand and dispatch it when demand and prices are higher.

But as intermittent energy sources like wind and solar power grow in use, storage can hold power generated when the wind or sun is strong so that it can be used later, when demand outpaces generation.

Sens. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Senate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick Who is Andrew Wheeler, EPA's new acting chief? MORE (D-R.I.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans Hillicon Valley: Mueller indicts Russians for DNC hack | US officially lifts ZTE ban | AT&T CEO downplays merger challenge | Microsoft asks for rules on facial recognition technology | Dems want probe into smart TVs Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns MORE (D-Mass.) had been two of the most vocal voices calling for FERC’s storage rule.

“We’re already seeing powerful new batteries help renewable energy beat out fossil fuels. This rule will help continue that success, reducing carbon pollution and providing Americans with dependable, low-cost energy,” Whitehouse said in a statement.

The storage industry praised FERC's action.

“With this morning’s unequivocal action, the FERC signaled both a recognition of the value provided by storage today, and more importantly, a clear vision of the role electric storage can play, given a clear pathway to wholesale market participation,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the Energy Storage Association.