Massachusetts finds early success with behind-the-meter energy storage program

Massachusetts finds early success with behind-the-meter energy storage program

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Massachusetts has found early success with its behind-the-meter energy storage incentive program.

The ConnectedSolutions program compensates residential and commercial customers for allowing utilities to draw from energy from their grid-connected batteries and/or to curtail energy use via smart thermostats or electric vehicle charging at times of peak electric demand.

Launched in 2019, ConnectedSolutions had about 34,000 customer participants with 310 megawatts of capacity enrolled by the end of 2020, according to a report compiled by Applied Economics Clinic for the Clean Energy Group. ConnectedSolutions tripled the 2020 goal of Massachusetts’ Clean Peak Energy Standard but fell 27 MW short of the energy efficiency program administrators’ 2019-2021 three-year plan.

“The Massachusetts ConnectedSolutions program is a nation-leading program that has reduced expensive peak demand, provided cost savings, enhanced resiliency for participating residential, commercial, and industrial customers, and it has contributed to meeting the Commonwealth’s energy storage and clean peak goals,” authors of the report wrote. “Initial results have been impressive; in the first three years of the program, overall participation nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020, and planned benefits relative to costs were significantly higher than had been anticipated based on preliminary cost-benefit analysis conducted by the program administrators.”

All six New England states have adopted some form of a customer battery funding program since Massachusetts launched its nation-leading program.

AEC analysts noted that the ConnectedSolutions program could benefit from improved treatment of income-eligible customers and those in underserved communities. Suggestions for policymakers also include providing more detailed performance data and rapidly-scaling the program to meet clean peak goals by offering higher incentive rates and longer-term contracts.

More than half of the battery storage capacity added in the U.S. in the next three years will be paired with a solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant, bucking the historical trend of majority standalone sites.

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Data from the Energy Information Administration estimates that 9.4 of 14.5 GW, or 63%, of battery storage capacity planned to come online through 2024 will be co-located with solar PV. The remaining capacity additions will be paired with wind or fossil fuel generators (1.3 GW) or will be placed on standalone sites (4 GW).

“Historically, most U.S. battery systems have been located at standalone sites,” Vikram Linga wrote for EIA. “Of the 1.5 GW of operating battery storage capacity in the United States at the end of 2020, 71% was standalone, and 29% was located onsite with other power generators.”

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Last week, the U.S. Dept. of Energy announced $17.9 million in funding for researching and development projects to scale up American manufacturing and reduce costs of flow battery and long-duration storage systems.

Energy storage advancements are crucial to the Biden administration’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We’re moving at lightning speed to harness renewables and access to long-duration storage is critical for dispatching this clean energy for use whenever and wherever it’s needed,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s investment to boost battery storage technology coupled with our first-ever Energy Storage for Social Equity Initiative will help generate jobs, build more resilient communities and ensure a cleaner, healthier environment for all Americans.”

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