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NJ legislative committee advances energy storage bill

A New Jersey legislative committee voted in favor of a bill that would require utility regulators to conduct an analysis of energy storage in the state.

The state general assembly's Environment and Solid Waste Committee voted June 5 to advance A4728 to the assembly's Appropriations Committee. Introduced March 20, the legislation would order the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to evaluate potential costs and benefits of increasing opportunities for energy storage and distributed energy resources in the state. In conducting its analysis, the BPU would consult with the Laboratory for Energy Smart Systems in the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University as well as public and private entities in other states that have led similar studies, the bill said.

Under the legislation, the BPU would be required to look at what types of energy storage technologies currently are being utilized in New Jersey and calculate the benefits and costs to ratepayers, local governments and electric public utilities of adding more energy storage technologies, the bill said. The BPU also would determine the ideal amount of energy storage for the state to add over the next five years to provide the most benefit to ratepayers and calculate the associated costs.

The BPU would be obligated to consider how implementing renewable electric energy storage systems could benefit ratepayers by providing emergency back-up power for essential services, offsetting peak loads and stabilizing the electric distribution system. The study also must examine whether installing renewable electric energy storage systems would encourage electric vehicle usage in New Jersey as well as the possible impacts doing so would have on the state's renewable energy production. According to the bill, the BPU further should evaluate how distributed energy resources could be cost-effectively and efficiently incorporated into the state's electric distribution system.

The BPU must submit a report on its findings, including any recommendations for financial incentives to help spur the development and implementation of energy storage and distributed energy resource technologies by public and private entities, to Gov. Chris Christie and the state legislature no later than one year after the bill becomes law.

"Increasing the amount of energy storage capacity on the power grid has the potential to transform the way electricity is generated and consumed," the bill said. "Energy storage allows for the use of energy generated during low cost off-peak periods to serve load during expensive peak periods, thereby improving the overall utilization and economies of the electric grid." The bill also pointed to recent advances in new energy storage technologies like grid-scale batteries, noting that those technologies are increasing the viability of wide-scale deployment of electricity storage.

"It's good to have an analysis but we need to start moving forward with programs and funding to make it a reality," director of the New Jersey Sierra Club Jeff Tittel said in a statement. "We need to be able to store renewable energy at all times, like at night or when the wind isn't blowing."

"Energy storage is critical to move renewable energy forward and prevent blackouts and brownouts," Tittel added.