Senator David Woodsome, Representative Seth Berry, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities & Technology,
My name is Dylan Voorhees and I am the Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). Thank you for allowing us to present this testimony. NRCM supports this legislation as a proactive approach on energy storage, a rapidly emerging suite of technologies that could significantly benefit consumers and the environment. We appreciate the leadership of Senate President Thibodeau and Speaker of the House Gideon in bringing forward this bipartisan bill.
As I have told this committee many times, Maine is blessed with abundant renewable energy resources. Developing those resources not only creates direct economic development benefits, but reduces the degree to which we send our money out of state to pay for imported fossil fuels. The challenges with intermittent renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar have often been exaggerated, especially at low rates of penetration. The benefits of these low-cost energy resources already outweigh any integration costs. However, it is in our interest to significantly increase renewable energy development, for environmental and energy security reasons, and the ability to store energy could increase the economic benefits of doing so.
Transmission and distribution costs are on the rise in Maine, and likely to continue up as costly infrastructure is added to our grid, largely to keep the system reliable as peak demand grows. Energy storage has the potential to reduce those costs, as well as the cost of generation capacity and the cost of paying for peaking power plants.
Energy storage is not quite like other grid resources and requires a modernization of our market structures and regulations. This bill is a necessary foundation for those efforts, and complements other energy policies and pieces of legislation before you.
I have two recommendations for the bill, both regarding Section 5. Duties. First, under subsection 2, the Commission is directed to “analyze whether energy storage is part of a transmission solution.” This is a critical area of examination, however to be more consistent with parlance in this field, I believe the language should refer to storage as a “non-transmission solution.” Furthermore, the proper answer to this question is almost certainly: It depends. So the task might be refined as: “analyze under what circumstances energy storage is part of a non-transmission solution and what barriers need to be overcome to achieve them.”
Second, I suggest the Commission spend considerable effort considering and learning from experience elsewhere where energy storage technology has been deployed, as part of broader grid modernization efforts or in stand-alone applications. While this legislation would put Maine on track to stay abreast of leading states on energy storage—and there are important examples of true leadership from within the state—several jurisdictions are ahead of Maine and we should learn from them. I suggest subsection 5 be amended to say: “Examine energy storage projects, policies or experiences from other jurisdictions that may be beneficial models for Maine and any other issues to further the purposes of the study.”
We urge you to vote to pass this bill.