California bill seeks to help local governments permit storage systems

California’s SGIP program is the largest state-sponsored behind-the-meter storage incentive in the country, and the application process is exceedingly complicated.

The program recently re-opened after a nearly two year hiatus so that it could be reformulated in order to make the process more equitable. SGIP attracted controversy in previous years with reports that some companies were able to wind a lion’s share of the awards.

In revamping the process, the state also put a greater emphasis on energy storage and de-emphasized other renewable technologies, which are covered under other incentives. The program now has $448 million earmarked for storage, 79% of the total, spread over five rounds of allocations.

That funding could beget as much as 800 MW (1600 MWh) of storage, depending on how incentives are allocated, according to an analysis of the program from consultancy Strategen. That likely means hundreds of permit requests for installation and interconnection of small storage systems — a burden some local governments could find difficult.

AB 546 seeks to help, calling for a storage permitting handbook for government agencies. A similar guide already exists for applicants to the storage program, and the government handbook would be positioned as a model for other states.

“The purpose here is to give cities and counties helpful tools,” Alex Morris, director of policy and regulatory affairs for the California Energy Storage Association, told Microgrid Knowledge. “The vast majority of projects are small behind-the-meter projects that have to connect with the utility and go through the permitting process.”

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