Interconnection Issues Could Block Future Energy Storage Progress in US, Report Says

Without proper planning now, it is likely that interconnection issues could emerge as a “significant blockade” to the success of energy storage programs in the U.S., much like the industry has seen with newly launched solar programs, according to a report released this week by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).

According to the report, Charging Ahead: An Energy Storage Guide for Policy Makers, the ability to interconnect energy storage systems to the grid in a fair and efficient manner is fundamental to allowing energy storage to provide grid services, and storage developers consistently identify it as a key barrier to storage growth. States, the report said, can consider moving ahead quickly with clarifying or modifying the foundational policies of interconnection.

The report recommends that states identify whether they have adopted statewide interconnection standards, and, if so, determine if those standards expressly apply to energy storage.

“State interconnection procedures that were drafted with only traditional generators in mind may contain language making them technically applicable only to ‘generators,’” the report said, noting that a state can revise or clarify the existing definition of eligible generator in the state interconnection standards to ensure that it explicitly includes storage.

Further refinements to these standards also may be necessary to take into account the operating characteristics of storage and enable deployment in a manner that captures the greatest value of this technology, the report said.

The report also noted that developers seeking to interconnect storage systems to the distribution grid and participate in wholesale energy markets face issues over whether these projects require a federal or state jurisdictional interconnection agreement — or both.

“This issue will be an important one to address in the near term, and may need more dedicated attention by FERC, especially as energy storage markets grow across the country,” the report said, adding that states should work with FERC to ensure a clear answer to this issue emerges so developers do not encounter unnecessary jurisdictional hurdles.

Utility Planning

Among the key takeaways for state policy makers outlined in the report was a recommendation that utilities consider energy storage together with traditional wires and resources solutions.

“Requiring utilities to prepare accurate hosting capacity analyses of their distribution systems, using robust methodologies, and to share the underlying data supporting those assessments in granular and readily accessible formats can help identify optimal grid locations for energy storage,” the report said.

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Jennifer Delony, analyst for TransmissionHub, started her career as a B2B news editor in the local and long-distance telecommunications industries in the '90s. Jennifer began covering renewable energy issues at the local level in 2005 and covered U.S. and Canadian utility-scale wind energy as editor of North American Windpower magazine from 2006-2009. She also provides analysis for the oil and natural gas sectors as editor of Oilman Magazine.

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