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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 ChatterjeeNeil ChatterjeeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: White House rescinds Trump proposal to restrict greenhouse gas consideration | Texas governor limits shipping natural gas out-of-state amid power shortages | Lawmakers clash over gun prohibition in Natural Resources committee room Almost 5 million without power as winter storm stresses grid in Texas, 13 other states Senate approves two energy regulators, completing panel 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 WhitehouseFor a win on climate, let's put our best player in the game Lawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job Democrats wrestle over tax hikes for infrastructure MORE (D-R.I.) and Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyDemocratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents Progressives put Democrats on defense 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.