Utility-Scale batteries.

The Dallas Morning News, in a June 19 editorial, urged the PUC to create rules for utility-scale battery storage.

Act now. That’s the message from The Dallas Morning News, which in a recent editorial called upon Texas regulators to forge new rules for utility-scale battery storage.

At issue is how Texas should treat big batteries, the sort that can serve hundreds or even thousands of homes and businesses during brief power outages or emergency situations. Power grid operators historically have not had such technology at their disposal because it was too costly. But costs have come down in recent years — substantially.

The Dallas Morning News, in an editorial, urged the PUC to create rules for battery storage.

The problem remains, however, as to how to incorporate the technology into the state’s power system. Should regulators treat utility-scale batteries as generation assets? As transmission assets?  Under the state’s electric deregulation law, regulated transmission providers cannot own generation because generation operates under free-market rules.

The Dallas Morning News, in its June 19 edition, said the Public Utility Commission should resolve the issue.

“Since batteries behave differently than power plants, the grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has to plan carefully for each new battery installation — and to do so, it needs the Public Utility Commission to create a set of rules and procedures for batteries,” the newspaper wrote.

Had it won approval last session, Senate Bill 1941 would have provided the agency guidance. Under the legislation, the state’s transmission and distribution utilities would have received legal authority to employ batteries as an alternative to distribution wires.  But SB 1941 failed during the session’s waning days.

But the newspaper said that shouldn’t deter the PUC. Rather, regulators should look to SB 1941 for guidance, it said.

“(The legislation) came down on the right side,” the newspaper wrote. “Batteries are to be part of the free market, not socialized and used only for reliability. Let’s not wait for the next legislative session for rules that could be written now.

“We already know we need more capacity and with recent storms, we have another reminder that the PUC should act quickly. … It’s time for the PUC to create the foundation for battery storage in Texas.”

You can read the full editorial here.

— R.A. Dyer