Tech giants rally behind US energy storage market

A US-based coalition featuring companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Tesla as members has applauded the efforts of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to open-up US wholesale electricity markets to energy storage and demand response initiatives.

The Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) seeks to impact policy decisions to influence energy concerns. Its members, which also includes General Electric, Veolia, Siemens and a host of renewable energy companies have penned a joint statement to the FERC over the integration of energy storage into selected US electricity markets.

The FERC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) for the energy storage market in November last year, after external campaigning form organisations such as AEE. Under the rulemaking, companies and organisations were invited to submit comments about expanding the market, which were due last week.

“We are entering a new era where advanced energy technologies can compete based on lower costs and increased reliability but are not allowed to do so because of market rules that were designed with incumbent technologies in mind,” AEE’s vice president of federal affairs Arvin Ganesan said.

“This rulemaking can remove some of the market barriers these technologies face, allowing advanced energy businesses to provide reliable energy at lower cost.”

The FERC established the parameters for what types of organisations and what types of energy and infrastructure can connect to power grids in the US, and how the technologies will be subsidised. The latest NOPR has agreed that battery storage can support the grid and ruled that the technology should be viable to receive income from transmissions, making them more attractive to investors and private sector companies.

The new amendments will likely target markets overseen by US Regional Transmission Organisations (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs). These third-party operators were put in place to ensure that no bias or preference is given to certain generators, and cover two-thirds of the US’ economic activity.

The NOPR will now seek to remove barriers for energy storage and demand response in these markets and RTOs and ISOs will likely be required to revamp tariffs. However, any amendments will have to wait until the FERC is at full capacity. Currently, the Commission is waiting on the appointment of three new commissioners to fill empty seats, and the vetting process could take at least two months.

Vested interest

Apple’s involvement in the AEE, and subsequent interest in energy storage, should come as no surprise. Last year, the company formed its own energy subsidiary which could see the company sell excess electricity to end-users across the US – in a bid to stabilise its ongoing commitment to sourcing renewable energy.

Tesla’s interest in energy storage is well-documented and the NOPR could fast-track the company’s ambitions regarding the purchase of sister company Solar City.

Owning SolarCity is part of a move to “complete the picture” for the motor company by aligning with the Tesla Energy subsidiary, which already allows home owners to store energy through the Powerwall and Powerpack products – with reservations already amounting to $1bn.

Matt Mace

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