Utilities and regulators are not typically known for innovation. Instead, they tend to focus their efforts and attention on reliability and cost effectiveness. So, when Rob Powelson, new president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) kicked off his first national meeting under the theme “Infrastructure, Innovation and Investment,” I was intrigued.
The opening general session focused on how to upgrade aging utility infrastructure in ways that optimize new technology, and introduced a new Presidential Task Force on Innovation to promote modernization. This task force will discover how NARUC members can embrace emerging innovation – like integrated energy networks and battery storage.
This utility-industry focus on innovation marks a new direction. To prepare for the venture, we can learn from the most recent rapid disruption in a related industry, telecommunications: a mere 20-year transition from POTS (plain old telephone service) to PANS (pretty amazing new stuff). This cautionary tale reveals that the winners are grid operators who welcome new ideas and offer customers new services. Read More
Another year, and another Ohio utility is sidling up to the trough for a bailout.
Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) is asking for $1 billion over seven years, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will soon hold a hearing on the application. And like its fellow Ohio subsidy-seeker, FirstEnergy, DP&L is veiling its billion-dollar request with talk of making the grid smarter and more modern.
No doubt grid modernization is a worthy investment. The only problem is, DP&L will not commit to spending any of the requested funding on grid modernization, but only offers that it may do so. Since DP&L won’t commit to modernizing the grid, it’s more likely the utility wants to spend the funds for other purposes, such as shoring up its balance sheet, paying off old debt, and operating its old power plants.
Although Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supports grid modernization, we do not support DP&L’s proposal because the utility could divert the funding for these other purposes, which would be harmful for customers and the environment. Read More
By Jeremy Proville, senior manager, GIS & Economics
We learned last month that scientists are rushing to save critical climate data on government websites before the Trump administration takes over. They fear that such data may be deleted and forever lost, and it’s not hard to see why.
The incoming administration has announced plans to roll back existing climate change initiatives and there have been proposals to cut research programs that support a broad range of scientific expertise, such as weather prediction critical to farmers and to states vulnerable to major disasters.
In addition to science-based climate data, however, there is concern that other critical information and analyses under the purview of agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy may be imperiled early next year. Unbeknownst to many – including, perhaps, to the president-elect and his circle of insiders – all these datasets benefit a broad range of sectors that rely on solid economic forecasting.
Here are just two datasets that are absolutely central to the work economists and analysts do to help industry and other decision-makers interpret energy opportunities and challenges in a rapidly changing world. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy
Market forces and technology are increasingly making old, dirty power plants uneconomic, which creates an opportunity for clean energy progress and cleaner air. However, outdated rules and entrenched interests can complicate the path to a healthier energy economy, as evidenced by a new settlement in Ohio.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently approved an American Electric Power (AEP) settlement that contains both promising and discouraging components.
The PUCO decision forces AEP to reconsider its ownership of power-generating plants. Realizing old coal-fired units can no longer compete against newer natural-gas and renewable facilities in deregulated markets, AEP suggests it faces two options, one being to ask Ohio legislators to overturn the state’s deregulation law, allowing AEP to return to the less-risky days of guaranteed profits on any of its power plants.
However, a recent study by Ohio State University and Cleveland State University found that the competition enabled by deregulation allowed Ohio customers, businesses, and industries to save $15 billion on electricity over the past four years and is expected to save the same amount by 2020. If the state were to return to a regulated system, Ohioans could miss out on those billions of savings. Read More
Also posted in Clean Energy, Ohio
The need to plan for and design a more efficient, cleaner, and resilient electricity grid has never been greater. Our aging grid is ill-prepared to keep pace with rapid technological advances and an increasingly distributed, dynamic energy system. A greater number of customers are producing electricity themselves, demanding expanded energy choice and a more interactive relationship with their utilities. In the meantime, an increased number of severe storms in recent years keep pressing the need for resilience. In order to meet these challenges, we need to look beyond traditional planning solutions for how we make, use, and distribute electricity.
This year has seen a flurry of activity on grid modernization in states across the U.S. As 2016 comes to a close, the spotlight is on Maryland as it joins the ranks of states investigating how to transform our electric system. Read More