The wind at our backs: CESA’s legislative triumphs in 2016

September 12, 2016

By Alex Morris, Senior Director, Policy and Regulatory Affairs 

 

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  When it comes to energy storage becoming a greater part of the tool-kit for enabling a greener, more efficient, and cost-effective electrical grid, we’ve taken that first step and surely a few beyond.  Some of these steps, however, have been easier than others.  As many of CESA’s members recall, those earliest steps often felt like they were uphill, in the snow, and into the wind! 

Conversely, there will also be times of faster progress, i.e. with the wind at our backs.  These times are a welcome reprieve and a chance to feel thankful about progress well made.

This past Legislative session marked an important and unexpected ‘wind at our backs’ moment in the journey for mainstream use and acceptance of energy storage. While I can’t call it ‘easy’, we certainly made faster progress this year than we expected.  This culminated with the passage of FOUR pieces of legislation related to energy-storage in the 2016 Legislative Session!  While CESA played a role in all of these bills, some of the ideas and support for the bills came from other new storage champions in the state!  Many hands making light work. 

The four bills all focus on different pieces of the storage puzzle, but undoubtedly advance the role of energy storage:

First, AB 1637 (Low) dramatically expanded funding incentives for customer-sited storage projects.  These storage deployments can be stand-alone or with renewables, and give customers much more control in managing their electricity costs.

Second, AB 2861 (Ting) improves the conflict resolution process for interconnection disputes.  CESA helped originate this idea after hearing about members’ struggles with utility interconnection processes.  The CPUC liked the idea enough to sponsor this bill, helping it to pass with unanimous support!

Third, AB 33 (Quirk) focused on the role of bulk storage, such as Pumped-Hydro storage, Compressed-Air Energy Storage (CAES), and batteries, in integrating renewables on the grid, e.g. absorbing ‘the belly of the duck’.  This bill directs the CPUC to consider a CEC report on bulk storage as part of its renewables integration, resource planning, or other proceedings. 

Finally, AB 2868 (Gatto) directs the utilities to consider the role of energy storage as a distributed energy resource (DER) that can provide benefits to the grid.  The utilities are directed to develop ideas for programs or investments that deploy DERs. 

Thus, in CESA’s second year of legislative focus, fantastic results were had. No more ‘slogging through snow’ to educate state leaders and explain the role of storage. This legislative session clearly demonstrated the superb momentum for energy storage in California.  And as CESA’s Policy Director, I’m going to enjoy the moment!

Many thanks to our CESA members who contributed in many ways to this work – sending letters, making calls, developing our strategies – and the doughty CESA team.  Onward!