Friday, October 20, 2017

Sandy 5 Years Later: Is the Northeast Closer to Grid Resilience?

In the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Northeastern states published resilience reports, action plans and infrastructure goals galore. The storm was devastating, but next time, they said, they’d do better. 

Five years later, the recovery effort shows rebuilding takes serious time. After Sandy, "resilience" became a buzzword and a promise to ensure the grid could stand up to nature’s perils. But with recent disasters in the Caribbean, the Southeast and California, it’s becoming even clearer how much work remains to build that newer, sturdier grid.

“The whole hardening arena becomes a lot more complicated and a lot more important going forward,” said Miki Deric, managing director of utilities, transmission and distribution at Accenture, who worked with utilities on post-Sandy recovery in Connecticut. “With the increased frequency of these large events, there’s a constant reminder that there’s a need to do this.”

A time of introspection

In October 2012, after leaving a path of destruction in the Caribbean, Sandy knocked out power for 8.5 million people in 21 states. The storm topped off months of extreme weather events beginning with Hurricane Irene, which caused 4 million people in the U.S. to lose power.

The “unprecedented weather” pushed cities and states to rethink how they had delivered electricity for a century. In the Northeast, especially, Sandy compelled hard-hit states like Connecticut, New York and New Jersey to take a hard look at resilience.

According to Richard Mroz, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, it was a time of introspection.

“The board, along with the industry across all the sectors, all of which were impacted, really turned inward to consider what measures had to be addressed,” he said.

The strategies that resulted from this stock-taking largely fell into two categories: microgrids and grid hardening. 

According to GTM Research, in the year after Sandy, states dedicated $56 million to microgrids, with Connecticut spending nearly all of those funds. In 2014, Northeastern states spent $84 million.

Through Q3 2017, the Northeast accounted for the majority of microgrid capacity with 33 percent of the 2,045 megawatts in the U.S. The region also accounted for 27 percent of built microgrids, falling just behind the Southwest, which has a sizable number of military microgrids.

Since 2013, the Northeast has constructed 35 microgrids, with at least one in nearly every state. In 2012, Connecticut passed a law setting aside over $30 million in grants and low-interest loans for microgrid development. The state had one microgrid before the storm; now it has eight. New York went from 10 before to 17 after. New Jersey jumped from three to seven. 

In 2014, New York announced a prize initiative to develop community microgrids. This year it chose 11 projects that will advance to feasibility studies. Three to five should be built between 2018 and 2020, said GTM Research grid edge analyst Colleen Metelitsa, who expects those to be relative boom years for Sandy-inspired microgrids coming on-line.

“A lot of money has been allocated, but not many of the microgrids have actually been built with post-Sandy funding,” said Colleen Metelitsa. “What we’ve seen in Connecticut, for example…a lot of these funds are still there, and a lot of those projects even from round one still haven’t been commissioned. A lot of them are moving forward, but it’s a slower process than everyone has been expecting.”

Some are coming on-line, though, such as New York City’s Marcus Garvey Village Microgrid, part of an affordable housing complex.

That project includes 300 kilowatts of lithium-ion battery storage and is fueled by 400 kilowatts of solar PV and a 400-kilowatt fuel cell system. A New City Energy Efficiency Corporation loan financed the project and L+ M Development Partners and Demand Energy, a subsidiary of Enel Green Power, will share revenue and cover the debt. 

This summer, the New Jersey BPU approved feasibility study funding for 13 town center microgrids that would connect multiple buildings with critical infrastructure such as water and wastewater facilities, shelters and some commercial buildings. Using a $400 million Federal Transit Authority grant, the state is also working on the NJTransitGrid, which would keep transit lines into New York on-line using a dedicated natural gas plant and transmission lines. 

Many of the Northeast’s microgrids still rely on fossil fuels or combined heat and power systems. In the future, more clean energy is the goal.

“That’s really what we’d like to see, is the mix of traditional electric generation and renewables all in one place,” said Mroz.  

Hardening the defenses

In the event of another huge storm, microgrids will allow certain segments of cities and states to island from the main grid, but governments and utilities say they’ve also made strides in reducing the vulnerability of the overall system.

New York City worked with utility Consolidated Edison on prioritizing certain hardening measures, said Susanne DesRoches, deputy director for energy and infrastructure in the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resilience. 

That collaboration led to efforts such as the hardening of 16 substations and five generating stations, selective undergrounding in areas like Staten Island, reinforcing transmission towers, installing submersible transformers and network protectors, and reducing feeder segment sizes so that a single failure can affect only up to about 500 customers. 

In New Jersey, the BPU approved $1.3 billion in infrastructure hardening and storm mitigation projects. Public Service Enterprise Group, a utility, set aside $3.9 billion over 10 years to implement smart grid technologies, strengthen distribution infrastructure and underground strategic areas. Atlantic City Electric worked on automated sectionalization and reclosers at 33 of its substations. Other utilities including Jersey Central Power & Light and Rockland Electric also installed reclosers. 

Many of these efforts have been made possible by the formation of green banks.

Connecticut created the country’s first green bank the same year Sandy hit by leveraging public funds to raise private capital. New York created its bank one year later with $210 million in initial funds meant to supplement private investment for clean energy projects. New Jersey’s bank, funded with $200 million from its federal community development block grant, focuses specifically on resilience.

A playbook for other regions

The progress post-Sandy hasn’t been perfect, and many have criticized it as unacceptably slow-moving. But what has been accomplished has become even more significant recently, as potential examples for areas suffering from recent disasters.

“They have a difficult task ahead of them, particularly the islands,” said Mroz. “There are some things you just can’t prepare for, but I think it’s incumbent on the industry and regulators to prepare and test their systems [and] think about what worst-case scenarios might be.”

Preparing systems for a climate-changed future will take even more work on the parts of system regulators. If Sandy forced utilities and governments to reckon with the reliability of their systems, the spate of recent hurricanes, flooding and fires raise even more questions about resilience -- and whether it's possible to build a grid that can stand up to super-strength natural disasters.

“We can continue to harden these things, and they’re going to do better in these storms,” said Deric. “But there’s never going to be a point where you’re not going to have damage in a storm like Harvey or Irma or Sandy. I just don’t think that’s a reality.”

For now, there's more work to be done on just baseline resilience for Sandy-stricken states. Though the areas most affected by the storm possess the will and momentum to harden infrastructure, tangible progress shows resilience is easier said than done. 

“The reality of it, when we look at infrastructure projects, is that we’ve hardly had any infrastructure projects completed,” said Ceci Pineda, resiliency training and policy coordinator at Good Old Lower East Side, a community housing organization. “When you look at the Lower East Side, a third of the buildings are in construction, a third are in procurement, another third are in the design phase.”

But Pineda notes that after Sandy, GOLES has been able to build relationships and networks with city agencies to prepare for the next storm. In that sense, governments have come to a different understanding on collaboration and what it means to rebuild after a disaster. 

“That’s the broader sense of what resiliency is,” said Mroz. “To think about not just the immediate response, but how you recover from an event and deal with it.”

from GTM Solar

Ohio’s Clean Energy Mandates Are Back on the Chopping Block [GTM Squared]

from GTM Solar

How Big Dollars Are Catalyzing India’s Small-Scale Solar Market

In order to meet India’s energy access goals, distributed solar has to scale significantly.

While there has been growth in this Indian market segment, it has been from a very small level of installations. While the government’s target for distributed solar power deployment is for 40 gigawatts by 2022, only 1.4 gigawatts had been deployed by early this year. That means we need a 100 percent compound annual growth rate between now and 2022 -- a blistering pace of development.

Luckily, the distributed solar market in India is ripe for rapid expansion, with falling technology costs and government initiatives that have reduced the levelized cost of electricity to make rooftop solar competitive with not only commercial and industrial tariffs, but also with residential tariffs in many cases. However, it’s also a young industry. Many of the companies are in significant need of early stage funding for project preparation services to help them scale up, de-risk and become investment-ready.

Recognizing this need, the Indian and U.S. governments jointly created -- in partnership with the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the Indian Renewable Energy and Development Agency (IREDA), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Good Energies Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust -- a facility that leverages the unique risk attributes of grant dollars to mobilize finance for early stage project preparation for Indian distributed solar power developers, called U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance (USICEF). Climate Policy Initiative serves as the program manager.

USICEF will deploy millions of dollars in early-stage project preparation support, including market estimation, product development and testing, and engineering and legal costs, which will help developers become ready enough to attract commercial investment. USICEF’s support catalyzes long-term debt financing for distributed solar power from OPIC, IREDA and other public sector financial institutions, to in turn drive more investment from private sources.

USICEF is based on the Africa Clean Energy Finance Facility, a similar program that successfully leveraged $1 billion in clean energy investment with as little as $20 million in early-stage grants.

Announced a year ago, USICEF recently became operational. It selected its first round of grant recipients, which in total will receive an estimated $900,000 in project preparation support. They are:

  • Argo Solar, which provides custom designed end-to-end solar rooftop power solutions for commercial and industrial organizations in India
  • HCT Sun India, a subsidiary of U.S.-based HCT Sun LLC and an early-stage rooftop solar developer in India
  • OMC Power, an integrated rural power utility company that brings affordable and reliable power to mobile tower operators, surrounding small businesses and communities through smart mini-grids
  • SMG Ventures, which implements rooftop solar projects primarily for commercial and industrial customers in India
  • SunFunder, an experienced debt provider for beyond the grid and grid deficit solar projects and companies, which will provide inventory, construction, and structured asset finance loans for solar lighting, home systems, mini-grids and commercial rooftop solar projects in India

USICEF is continuing to accept applications for support from distributed solar power companies through its website.

The question that arises for these young companies and the dozens of others that USICEF will support throughout the life of the program is whether early-stage project preparation can help distributed solar reach scale. By creating a pipeline of projects, USICEF is hoping to answer that question with an emphatic yes -- an answer that can drive the investment needed for India to achieve a robust, distributed solar power market and energy access for all. 


Gireesh Shrimali serves as India Director at the Climate Policy Initiative. Justin Guay is a program officer at the Packard Foundation.

from GTM Solar

The People’s Republic of Storage? [GTM Squared]

from GTM Solar

Thursday, October 19, 2017

FERC Faces Barrage of Comments on DOE’s Coal, Nuclear Cost-Recovery Rule

With the deadline for public comment on the Department of Energy's controversial proposal to provide cost recovery for coal and nuclear power plants fast approaching, all sides have been weighing in.

The DOE’s notice of public rulemaking (NOPR) is currently in the hands of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which recently agreed to an expedited review period. 

Initial comments are due October 23, and reply comments are due November 7. The DOE has asked FERC to issue a decision 15 days after that -- although many people familiar with the agency's rule making procedures say that's highly unlikely.

On the pro side of the issue are coal-state lawmakers, nuclear industry groups, and labor unions supporting the grid reliability and market failure claims made by the NOPR, and making a plea to support the jobs and economic activity these rapidly retiring power plants provide. 

On the con side are a panoply of energy industry groups, former federal energy commissioners, free market think tanks and environmental law groups, whose complaints range from why the NOPR is terrible policy, to why it isn't even legal for FERC to consider. 

These are some of the highlights from the comments being filed with FERC in the NOPR docket. We’ve already covered the genesis of this proposal, the backlash from major sectors of the energy industry and regulatory complex, and how FERC’s current commissioners have been reacting. 

All of this is happening on what many observers say is an impossibly short timespan -- with just 45 days to submit public comments. Many key parties, such as state utility commissions and regional electricity coordinating groups, were still filing requests for standing as an intervenor in the docket. 

Among the more noteworthy entries was a Thursday filing from eight former FERC commissioners, three of them Republican and five Democratic, declaring the NOPR a “a significant step backward from the Commission’s long and bipartisan evolution to transparent, open, competitive wholesale markets.” 

While a resilient power system is a worthy goal, DOE’s proposal wouldn’t help that, they wrote. Instead, it “would instead disrupt decades of substantial investment made in the modern electric power system, raise costs for customers, and do so in a manner directly counter to the Commission’s long experience." 

In fact, subsidizing resources that would otherwise retire as uncompetitive would actually distort markets by driving out its unsubsidized competition, raising prices on consumers, and evaporating confidence in markets, which “tend to collapse” under such circumstances, thereby undermining reliability.

The former commissioners -- Pat Wood III (R), Joe Kelliher (R), James Hoecker (D), Betsy Moler (D), Jon Wellinghoff (D), Donald F. Santa, Jr. (D), Linda Key Breathitt (D) and Nora Mead Brownell (R) -- offered a different solution. They urged FERC to work on what they described as the key issue for grid reliability: utility transmission and distribution system recovery after a storm or emergency.

“While there have been some instances of generation related customer outages, fuel supply emergencies have been an insignificant cause,” they wrote. 

The legal argument for killing the NOPR

Meanwhile, at least two legal groups filed comments seeking to short-circuit the need for FERC to review the DOE’s proposal at all.

In a filing this week, Ari Peskoe, a Harvard Law School senior fellow writing for the Harvard Environmental Policy Initiative, laid out a Iegal argument he discussed days after the NOPR first came out during an interview on The Interchange with GTM Research chief Shayle Kann. In simple terms, DOE hasn’t shown, or even proposed, that current wholesale rates in FERC-regulated jurisdictions are “unjust and unreasonable” or “unduly discriminatory” -- and without such a finding, FERC has no justification to act to change what’s already in place. 

“This glaring omission dooms DOE’s proposal under section 206 of the Federal Power Act and allows the Commission to issue a swift rejection without weighing in on the merits,” he wrote. 

Even without this consideration, Peskoe wrote, DOE’s failure to provide definitions of key terms like “resiliency,” a word never used by FERC in connection with wholesale rates, means that commissioners and interested parties would have to, essentially, invent a meaning in order to create a rule that values it in energy markets. That violates a legal requirement for rulemaking to present a range of alternatives to what's being proposed.

“[T]he NOPR does not propose even a single definition, let alone a 'range of alternatives,'" according to Peskoe.

Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law also argued in its comments that DOE has failed to demonstrate “unjust and unreasonable” market rules, preventing it from moving forward. It also argued that the proposal’s call for compensating particular fuel types means it requires a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review -- something that can’t happen within 45 days. Finally, it declared the NOPR “a politically motivated gambit to allocate resources to the support of coal- and nuclear-fired generating capacity.”

The free-market think tank R Street Institute took a different approach to the legal issues. “RSI sees no defensible case to support the NOPR and as such, only provides comments on staff questions that relate to the 'need to reform' and an additional question on alternative options.”

Instead, the group weighed in on its area of expertise, saying the proposal “lacks empirical support for its claim that an emergency situation justifies massive, abrupt intervention that will likely cost consumers billions without any clear benefit.” R Street urged FERC to “pursue an alternative course to price reliability and resiliency services that enhances the competitive performance of organized wholesale electricity markets.” 

Coal country responds 

Of the comments supporting of the proposal, the most politically weighty to date have come from U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito (R-WV) and three of the state’s Republican Congressmen, asking FERC to act quickly to “recognize the value” of coal and nuclear resources with 90-day fuel supplies.

The lawmakers also laid out a more specific policy for putting the NOPR’s vague concepts into action, suggesting that baseload resources be provided value for reliability and resiliency “during the capacity auction process" used by most interstate grid operators to secure generation supply for reliable operation across all hours, days and seasons of the year. 

They also repeat some of the DOE's assertions that opponents claim are inaccurate. For example, the lawmakers write “the current price advantages of natural gas and subsidized renewable energy in the electric markets are the result of volatile market forces and impermanent federal policies.” That’s arguable on the market volatility issue, and perhaps prophetic in terms of federal policies. That argument fails to capture that renewable energy’s price advantages are increasingly driven by technology improvements and economies of scale. 

In a Thursday filing, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) took the DOE’s argument further, suggesting that cost recovery be extended to include power plants owned by investor-owned utilities, municipalities and rural cooperatives that participate in wholesale markets, not just merchant generators. This argument would appear to extend to power plants that are already subject to cost recovery under North Dakota’s rate-regulated markets, and ask FERC to interfere in the state’s process for determining their status. 

The Regional Growth Partnership, a northeastern Ohio economic development agency, references several other points that have been questioned in relation to the NOPR. It writes that baseload coal and nuclear plants are “able to operate in all types of weather,” ignoring the weather events that have frozen on-site coal piles or forced nuclear plants offline.

The Partnership also cites a “changing and less diverse resource mix, resulting in an electrical grid with untested resiliency and a diminished ability to respond to crisis,” although these statements don’t accurately describe the grid’s condition today, according to U.S. grid operators and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. 

FERC’s docket has a number of other filings from economic development organizations and labor unions promoting the rule as a way to preserve jobs and economic activity in the face of coal and nuclear power plant closures.

In comments submitted this week, the Utility Workers Union of America provided this argument for why the NOPR is necessary: “The on-site fuel at baseload coal and nuclear EGUs [energy generation units] provides the electricity grid with reliability and resiliency characteristics that are unique across the fleet. This conclusion is not based on theoretical market models or complex algorithms, but on the experience of our members working day and night to run these EGUs. […] The modern electricity grid is increasingly becoming a place where theory replaces experience.” 

from GTM Solar

Renewables May Become the Netflix of the Energy Sector

Six key markers of market disruption hint that the energy sector might be the next industry in line for upheaval, according to a recent paper from Wood Mackenzie.

In the past century, the rapid uptake of new technologies has completely remade certain markets. Take the conversion from horses to cars for example; just over a century ago a car would stick out on a crowded street. Thirteen years later, though, a horsedrawn carriage became the outlier. 

According to Wood Mackenzie, the energy industry presents all the signs of an industry on the cusp of disruption. Positioned at the center of the shift is the “drive for deep carbonization and the falling cost of renewables,” according to the report. Essentially, the sharp drop in prices, as well as technological advancements, have created a perfect storm to upend energy normalcy. 

“This is not just about decarbonization,” said Prajit Ghosh, head of powers and renewable research at Wood Mackenzie. “It’s about rewriting the whole economy.”

The first qualifying marker is a vehicle -- such as the smartphone -- that can change how customers utilize services.

In the energy sector the vehicle is less tangible than something you can hold in your hand: it’s the electrons shuttling through your wires to power everything you do. Natural gas has already overtaken coal as the largest source of power in the United States -- a phenomenon the Trump administration already sees as a significant disruption. Now renewables are encroaching on gas, and energy efficiency gains have decreased demand for electricity. 

Wood Mackenzie identifies rapid technological advancement as the second indicator of disruption. “Rapid is the core word here,” said Ghosh, offering examples of the swift developments in higher masts and turbine size in the wind sector. Between 2007 and 2016 utility scale PV systems also fell in price by almost 80 percent. Battery prices have fallen precipitously as well, having already hit cost projections for 2030.

These developments have brought about the third marker: technological convergence. Solar and wind have become more viable as replacements for traditional fuel sources when paired with storage capacity.

The lower costs of renewables in addition to innovations in battery capacity has led Tesla to become a beacon of another essential marker: technology converging with industry. Since their introduction in 2012 Tesla’s electric vehicles have consumed a larger and larger portion of the approximately 17.5 million cars the U.S. sells per year. And although Tesla’s heavily anticipated Model 3 has hit numerous snags, most recently with the firing of hundreds of employees, the vehicles have still been able to make the jump from a niche market to a larger audience.

Traditional automakers eyeing the electric space illustrates further technological convergence with industry. Volvo and General Motors have both committed to dramatically increasing the numer of electric models they offer. 

The case of electric cars, and their ability to cause a large-scale shift in energy markets, is analogous to Netflix's overtake of video rental. The on-demand entertainment company originally started delivering DVDs to consumer’s doorsteps, taking a chunk of demand and putting companies like Bockbuster out of business. But when Netflix began offering streaming and producing original content, it came after the larger television industry and compelled many traditional players to innovate to keep up.

Renewables are applying the same pressure to oil and gas majors. Just last week Shell purchased a Dutch electric charging company, announcing it was setting its sights on the electric future.

Ghosh said based on examples like Netflix, it’s essential for the entire energy sector to reflect on the side effects of drastic market shifts. “As you go through this change you have to think about the unintended consequences, […] and who comes out as a winner and a loser,” he said. Many majors have expressed similar sentiments, increasing investment in renewables so as not to be left behind. 

In the early 1900s, Ghosh explained, cars were seen as a solution to the piles of manure and rotting horse carcasses clogging city streets -- a win for everyone. But few imagined the invisible puffs of pollution and smog that would come to choke urban areas, the dense highway systems that would change the landscapes of cities, or the cultural repercussions of domestic gender roles in suburban areas. Identifying the deep impacts that renewables have the capacity to inflict on the energy sector will give industry players a head-start on the disruption. 

And for electric vehicles or other renewable technologies to deeply upend energy markets in innumerable ways -- much like cars did -- they must also change practices at the consumer level. Ghosh said few people believe they have changed their power consumption, but innovations in the products we use and the efficiency of our power markets has invisibly shifted consumption, which will eventually lead to what the report calls “staggering levels of energy savings.” Renewable markets have also created “prosumers,” consumers that are also producing power from sources such as roof solar panels. 

Per the report, the next step in market disruption is digitization, in the form of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Among renewable trends, AI gets less play than diminishing costs and the rising dominance of electric vehicles, but the technology is certainly on the minds of industry players. Google has already been using AI to cut its energy use.

These six market disruptions are already playing out in California -- where there's a mandate to boost renewables to 50 percent by 2030 and cut greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Operational challenges are sure to spring up on the path to deep decarbonization, Wood Mackenzie notes.

A look at California’s average hourly generation mix in 2017 and 2036 "reveals the operational complexity in terms of ramping requirements, overgeneration issues and flexibility, among others," the report states.

According to Wood Mackenzie, the factors at work in the energy industry present all the markers of an industry staring over a cliff. While majors, utilities, and many governments are hoping to position themselves in an advantageous position, the report notes that even with preparation, “this will be a bumpy ride.”

from GTM Solar

AMS Beefs Up Leadership Team With SolarCity’s Grid Services Guru

After the departures of two high-level leaders, Advanced Microgrid Systems picked up a new C-suite member.

The San Francisco-based commercial storage developer hired Ryan Hanley, formerly vice-president of grid solutions at SolarCity, to serve as chief product officer. In that role, he'll oversee "product" in an expansive sense -- not just the battery systems going into stores and office buildings, but the economic optimization software that operates them and the analytics used to prioritize new project sites for customers.

Hanley has spent the past few years trying to build actionable business strategies around the frequently discussed idea that distributed energy resources can serve as lucrative grid assets, providing value to host customers, grid operators and ratepayers alike. He led the effort to transform the largest rooftop solar installer from a "construction business" into a "platform company" that leverages its portfolio of customer-sited assets for grid services.

"The fact that we can bundle [solar, storage and other DERs] together and actually sell a product that saves the customer money, provides the utility service and also makes us a profit is a big milestone -- maybe an under-spoken milestone of where we're going,” he said at an event in the fall of 2016.

SolarCity, though, remained first and foremost a company that installs solar on people's roofs. Then it got subsumed into Tesla, which first and foremost makes electric cars and spun off a side business packaging its batteries for stationary storage. The grid services concept still hasn't risen to the top of the company's crowded and high-stakes to-do list.

At AMS, though, grid services are pretty much the reason the whole company exists.

"AMS has always been a company that saw where this industry is going, moving into something distributed and transactive, and formulated itself to really bet on the industry going that way," Hanley said in an interview at the company's airy rooftop conference room gazebo.

The business model chases two stacked value streams. It deploys fleets of energy storage across commercial and industrial customers' portfolio of properties, sharing the energy bill savings achieved by demand management. Meanwhile, AMS contracts with utilities in those areas to dispatch its fleet of batteries on command.

The company has 120 megawatts under contract in California, 90 megawatts of which will serve utility Southern California Edison.

Fifteen systems are already up and running, serving customer demand management with lithium-ion batteries made by Tesla. The first two megawatts of the SCE contract obligation will kick in November 1, with the rest coming online staggered over the coming year.

That makes Hanley's arrival timely, as he rounds out the leadership team under CEO Susan Kennedy, who founded the company after a career in two California governors' administrations and serving on the California Public Utilities Commission. 

Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer Katherine Ryzhaya left early this year to join the leadership team at solar-plus-storage developer Lightsource North America, the new U.S. arm of the British company. Then, in June, residential solar company Sunrun hired away Audrey Lee, AMS's vice president of analytics and design, to serve as that company's vice president of grid services.

"Ryan's vision, experience and passion for transforming the grid by scaling clean distributed energy is unmatched," Kennedy said. "Combined with the incredible talent of the AMS team, it's a hell of a lot of firepower.”

As for the specifics of what's on his plate, Hanley couldn't say much, having just started. He did identify several challenges ahead for the storage industry more broadly: reduce the cost of batteries, streamline the permitting process, expand fair wholesale market access and expand data transparency.

He also hinted at international expansion to come.

"The opportunity is global and AMS is set to be global," Hanley said. "What AMS has already put in place allows itself to have lofty aspirations, and what it’s put in place applies in different markets around the world."

That's a sentiment we've been hearing more and more lately.

Green Charge recently discussed leveraging its corporate parent Engie for international storage development. AES Energy Storage is forming the Fluence joint venture with Siemens to push storage through the latter's global sales network. Greensmith's acquisition by Finnish power equipment maker Wartsila this summer sets the stage for a similar strategy.

Before it can conquer the world, though, AMS needs to deliver on its hefty SCE contract. That should keep Hanley busy for the time being.

from GTM Solar