On December 10, 2009, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or the “Commission”) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff testified on the technical issues related to integrating energy storage into the electricity grid at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  The hearing, designed to receive testimony on the role of grid-scale energy storage, contained two panels of witnesses representing several parts of the electric industry.  In his testimony, Wellinghoff discussed the need for energy storage, the newest developments in energy storage, and current initiatives by FERC to address energy storage.

 First, Wellinghoff stressed that energy storage is needed to help develop renewable energy and provide ancillary services.  Energy storage allows people to “warehouse” electricity, altering the traditional assumption that electricity transmitted and distributed must instantaneously match electricity demand and account for the variable nature of renewable energy.  Wellinghoff added that energy storage can also provide ancillary services, especially regulation service.  Providing regulation service helps prevent blackouts and studies have shown that energy storage is more efficient than some traditional gas-fired generators at matching load variations and ensuring grid reliability.    

 Second, Wellinghoff described some of the emerging technologies in energy storage.  In the past, the majority of energy storage came from pumped storage hydroelectric technology.  Wellinghoff explained that advances in technology have helped improve pumped storage through closed-looped systems and have created new products as well.  These products include the flywheel, grid-scale batteries, and batteries onboard electric vehicles.

 Finally, Wellinghoff discussed some of the ways in which FERC is addressing grid-scale energy storage.  For instance, FERC recently approved a proposal by the New York Independent System Operator (“ISO”) to integrate energy storage into its day-ahead and real-time markets and is currently considering a proposal to accommodate energy storage in the Midwest ISO markets.  On a broader level, FERC is analyzing various regulatory barriers that can be removed in order to adopt energy storage technology.  FERC will continue to monitor these developments, including allowing energy storage to enter wholesale markets in a similar manner to generation. 

 A copy of Wellinghoff’s testimony on energy storage can be found at: http://www.ferc.gov/EventCalendar/Files/20091210101921-12-10-09-wellinghoff-testimony.pdf.