In its coverage of the recent merger between SolarCity and Tesla, The Wall Street Journal ran a story focusing on the “extremely small” current market for energy storage – throwing in words like “miniscule” and “tiny” along the way. To me, the problem with that kind of coverage is that it tries to project the future from a myopic, single snapshot – it misses the bigger picture.
One of the most exciting things about our work at Sunverge is that our intelligent storage systems are integral to building our clean energy future. We’re developing great technology, along with great partnerships with solar installers and utilities who understand that the industry is at an important inflection point. The direction it is going matters a lot more than the size of the current installed base.
The future is also being built with the help of forward-thinking policy makers and regulators who are actively encouraging this transformation of the industry. They understand that properly designed networked storage deployments do more than deliver backup power and reliability to individual homeowners. They are a resource for the grid as a whole. This is more than theory: In New York, Sunverge, Consolidated Edison and SunPower are developing the largest deployment of distributed storage in North America, a 1.8 megawatt Virtual Power Plant. In Australia, energy retailer AGL and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are building a Virtual Power Plant capable of storing 7 megawatt hours of energy.
As legislators and regulators also recognize this inflection point, they are taking steps to prove the benefits of storage and accelerate adoption.
In California, the legislature directed the Public Utilities Commission to establish requirements for utilities to deploy energy storage, and there are already several successful solicitations. A similar directive is in place in Oregon, and Sunverge has been actively providing comments and recommendations.
In Nevada, the PUC is investigating the benefits of storage and the best next steps to take. We’ve suggested, as we did in Oregon, that this begin with a systematic review of the capabilities of the electric power distribution system today. This is similar to what regulators in New York, in their Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, have required, with utilities providing distribution system implementation plans in July. And this summer, Massachusetts passed an energy bill that directs the state’s Department of Energy Resources to develop a plan for incorporating storage there.
We plan to continue to work with policy makers, and help them to understand the progress that’s already been made. It’s another way, besides technology, that we can help ensure that the energy future we build lives up to its potential.