On Wednesday, September 23, the Northeast Electrochemical Energy Storage Cluster and North Shore InnoVentures co-hosted the 2015 Clean Energy Storage Finance Forum at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). The event kicked off with storage company pitches moderated by Tom Kinneman, Vice President and COO of North Shore InnoVentures. Afterward, Tibor Toth, MassCEC’s Managing Director of Investments, moderated a panel that featured Judith Judson, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, Betty Watson, SolarCity’sDeputy Director of Policy and Electricity markets, and Bill Bullock, Director of Business Development at NRG. The panel was an exclusive opportunity for major energy stakeholders to discuss the future of storage. Read below for some key takeaways!

  • Market Needs For Storage: Energy storage advances are happening rapidly, but as the capabilities and varieties of this technology grow, companies must decide how to utilize it. SolarCity and NRG’s current approach to storage in part uses smaller ventures and reports to investigate consumer needs and search the market for deployment opportunities. NRG, for example, is currently engaged in four NYSERDA micro-grid projects with energy storage components. In New York, they have found that consumers are demanding storage technology particularly for grid resiliency after the state’s experience with Superstorm Sandy. Watson said load shifting is another opportunity area for storage. She cited a study that showed last year Massachusetts alone could have employed battery storage in this manner to save $200 million.
  • Regulation as a Barrier to Both Deployment and Scalability: Despite rapid growth in the storage technology, the industry faces several challenges in getting it out and scaling it up. Both Watson and Bullock cited regulations as a primary roadblock across the space. This aspect is most cumbersome, according to Watson, because no single agency or authority has the ability to capitalize on storage’s full value. Commissioner Judson replied that government is currently trying to work through these issues. Specifically, Judson said Massachusetts’ storage study and demonstration projects aim to determine how policies can get already existing technology to large scale deployment.
  • Acceleration Through Investment: Along with clear regulations, the panel agreed that both government and private investment is crucial to ramping up the storage market. On the private side, Bullock touted NRG’s portfolio of storage projects while Waston boasted that SolarCity just raised the first $1 billion fund to accept storage. Judson explained how the state’s $10 million storage initiative is getting the public sector involved. Much of the funding will go toward business case demonstration projects that will get designed this fall and display the long term potential for storage. She invited interested stakeholders and startups to follow the DOER website for participation.