Texas Utility Commission to Take Up Utility Ownership of Storage Assets
The Texas Public Utility Commission is expected to address a lingering question this summer: Are utilities permitted to own battery storage to provide reliability solutions — if the competitive market there is unable to do so?
The microgrid industry sits on both sides of the issue. One group is saying that utilities won’t develop microgrids if they cannot own battery storage assets. The other is arguing that storage and generation are both competitive assets — ventures best left to unregulated arms of utilities, independent companies or energy customers.
American Electric Power-Texas brought the question before the utility commission in 2016. The company said that it required such a solution in remote areas of its distribution system.
While AEP said that it was not participating in the ancillary services market, competitive generators balked at the idea. They said that even if the utility was doing this for reliability reasons, it would serve to modify wholesale electricity prices within ERCOT, which manages the flow of electric power to more than 25 million Texans. The problem could compound if a utility owned several battery storage devices that charge and discharge.
“We support competitive solutions first,” says Suzanne Bertin, managing director of Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance, in an interview. “But we have supported having the option for a utility to own storage in limited circumstances — with utility commission approval — where the competitive market has failed to provide a solution.”