Maryland is making it cheaper to store electricity

The program is small, but feisty.

Home battery storage can be paired with solar to make houses run on clean energy. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt York
Home battery storage can be paired with solar to make houses run on clean energy. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matt York

Maryland legislators this week took a step towards modernizing their state’s electricity grid by passing a bill which will encourage businesses and homeowners to invest in battery storage.

The bill, which passed unanimously in the state senate and by a vote of 101–11 in the house of delegates, provides a 30 percent tax rebate on battery storage systems for homes and businesses.

“Energy storage can be a game changer for transforming Maryland’s power sector into one that is cleaner, lower cost, and more reliable,” James McGarry, Maryland policy director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said in a statement emailed to ThinkProgress. “By providing incentives for energy storage, [this bill] will help to move Maryland toward a clean energy future — providing myriad benefits to consumers, our economy, and our environment.”

The bill is just the latest in a series of environmental moves from the state legislature, which passed a fracking ban last week and successfully overturned a gubernatorial veto in order to increase the amount of electricity that comes from renewables energy earlier this year.

But battery storage is key to building on the success of the renewable energy boom. Because wind and solar are intermittent sources—meaning that they provide electricity in fits and spurts, rather than a more precisely controlled burn (coal, gas) or reaction (nuclear)—something is needed to even out the supply of electricity. That’s where batteries come in, storing electricity during periods of over-production, and discharging electricity when it’s needed.

In 2015, Tesla launched a commercial battery storage pack for homes and businesses. Trade outlets have reported strong presales, but it’s unclear how many packs have been sold.

Maryland’s program is modest, capped at $750,000 per year from 2018 to 2022.There are also caps on each rebate of $5,000 for residential installations and $75,000 for commercial installations. That means the state will only accommodate 150 residential installations or 10 commercial installations, but as Greentech Media pointed out, across the country “the industry deployed 907 grid-interactive home storage units in 2016, so it wouldn’t take much for Maryland to blaze a path onto the energy storage leaderboard.”

The rebates will apply to battery storage as well as other technologies.

Maryland’s move is notable, especially since California, Oregon, and Massachusetts are the only states currently mandating that their utilities provide a certain amount of storage capacity.

The Maryland rebate is the first energy storage rebate in the country. Hawaii, which gets the highest amount of its electricity from solar, is reportedly considering a similar move. The bill was sent to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for a signature.