Smart Grid
Energy Storage

Rise in grid modernization activities, led by energy storage

Utility grid modernization activity in the second quarter of 2019 rose 43% from the second quarter of 2018, with energy storage leading as the most common action, according to a new report from the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center.

The quarterly series of reports looks at state regulatory and legislative discussions and actions on grid modernization, utility business model and rate reforms, energy storage, microgrids, and demand response.

The report found that 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, took actions related to grid modernization during the second quarter of 2019. There was a total of 433 grid modernization actions taken during this quarter. In comparison, 302 grid modernization actions were taken in the second quarter of 2018 and 181 grid modernization actions were taken in the second quarter of 2019.

The top three trends during the quarter were states developing criteria for evaluating non-wires alternatives, policymakers and regulators considering next generation renewable portfolio standards, and states analyzing the costs and benefits of battery storage.

“Grid modernization activity continues to increase across the country, with states giving particular attention to grid planning processes,” Autumn Proudlove, lead author of the report and senior manager of policy research at N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, a part of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, said in a statement. “States are revising integrated resource planning rules, developing distribution system planning requirements, and exploring criteria for evaluating non-wires alternatives,” Proudlove said.

Among the top policy developments, the report noted a Minnesota bill signed into law in May, which requires utilities to assess how energy storage could meet generation and capacity needs as well as provide ancillary services, and a new law in Nevada authorizing utility business model reforms

The report also highlighted passage of SB 300 in Nevada, which directs the state’s Public Utilities Commission to adopt procedures for utilities to apply for approval of alternative ratemaking plans that must include at least one alternative ratemaking mechanism, such as performance-based rates, earnings sharing mechanisms, or decoupling mechanisms.

And the report highlighted the integrated resource plan put out by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority that includes proposals for mini-grids and energy storage deployments and cited the Modernizing the Distribution Energy Delivery System (MEDSIS) proceeding in the District of Columbia. In the May filing with the District’s Public Service Commission, working groups made several recommendations related to data access, non-wires alternatives, rate design, customer impact, microgrids, and pilot projects.

The report found that the states most active in grid modernization activities were New York, California, and Massachusetts, followed by Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.

The most common action taken in the second quarter was energy storage deployments, with nearly 50 actions, compared with just over 30 actions taken regarding data access, which ranked second in actions taken.

A growing number of states are undertaking studies to analyze the costs and benefits of energy storage, including Maine and Minnesota where the legislatures in the second quarter initiated analyses of the potential benefits of energy storage. In Iowa, the state’s Energy Office recommended that the Iowa Economic Development Authority evaluate the benefits of energy storage. And legislatures in Illinois and Pennsylvania are considering bills that would require energy storage cost-benefit studies. New Jersey in May completed an energy storage analysis that found that lithium-ion battery storage is most cost effective for providing ancillary services in the bulk power market. An energy storage study is under way in Virginia, and energy storage studies have been conducted in Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey all have established energy storage mandates.

In June, Janet Mills, Maine’s Democratic governor, signed a bill into law that calls for the establishment of a commission to study the economic, environmental and energy benefits of energy storage.

A study released in June by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that utility-scale battery storage could satisfy a “substantial portion” of peak capacity needs in the United States.