State Utility Commissions Investigate Grid Modernization

UPDATED 02.21.2017 with Minnesota e21 Phase II report.

Grid modernization is a hot-button topic that is being discussed nationwide.  In several states, the utility commissions have opened formal investigations and/or are developing plans to implement grid modernization activities.  Included among those are:

Following the enactment of General Assembly bills June Special Session, Public Act No. 15-5 and Public Act No. 15-113, in September 2015 DEEP initiated two proceedings to seek public comment on issues related to: (1) grid-side system enhancement demonstration projects; and (2) a two-year shared clean energy facility pilot program.

  • California, Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Docket No. R.14-08-103, Rulemaking Regarding Policies, Procedures and Rules for Development of Distribution Resources Plans Pursuant to Public Utilities Code Section 769.

Widely regarded as one of the states that is most aggressively pursuing grid modernization, California, through Assembly Bill No. 327 (AB 327), directed its investor-owned utilities to file distribution resource plans (DRPs) that “identify optimal locations for the deployment of distributed resources” (e.g. distributed renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, electric vehicles, and demand response technologies). The CPUC, which under AB 327 is required to review and approve, or if needed, modify, the DRPs, instituted a rulemaking in August 2014 to guide utilities in the development of and review processes for the DRPs.  The CPUC is currently reviewing the utilities’ DRPs and is conducting workshops on related issues.

  • District of Columbia, Public Service Commission (DC PSC), Formal Case No. 1130, Investigation into Modernizing the Energy Delivery Structure for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS).

In June 2015, the DC PSC instituted a proceeding to identify technologies and policies that can modernize the District’s energy delivery system for increased sustainability and that will make the District’s system more reliable, efficient, cost-effective, and interactive.  The DC PSC is in the process of conducting workshops related to its investigation.

  • Hawaiʻi, Public Utilities Commission (Hawaiʻi PUC), Docket No. 2014-0192, Instituting a Proceeding to Investigate Distributed Energy Resource Policies.

Following the issuance of a white paper entitled “Commission’s Inclinations on the Future of Hawaii’s Electric Utilities; Aligning the Utility Business Model with Customer Interests and Public Policy Goals,” the Hawaiʻi PUC instituted in August 2014 an investigation into the distributed energy resource policies of the islands’ utilities: Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc., Maui Electric Company, Limited (collectively, the HECO Companies), and the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.  Through this docket, the Hawaiʻi PUC has been investigating modernization-related issues including time-of-use rate proposals.

  • Massachusetts, Department of Public Utilities (Mass DPU), Investigation by the Department of Public Utilities on Its Own Motion into Modernization of the Electric Grid.

An early leader in the grid modernization movement, the Mass DPU commenced an investigation into grid modernization in October 2012.  After an investigation stage and issuing a straw proposal based on stakeholder recommendations, in June 2014 the Mass DPU directed each public utility operating in Massachusetts to develop and implement a 10-year grid modernization plan that makes measurable progress towards: (1) reducing the effects of outages; (2) optimizing demand, which includes reducing system and customer costs; (3) integrating distributed resources; and (4) improving workforce and asset management.  The Mass DPU is currently in the process of receiving comments and holding hearings on those plans.

  • Minnesota, Public Utilities Commission (MN PUC), Proceeding E999/CI-15-556, In the Matter of the Commission Investigation into Grid Modernization.

In 2014, the 21st Century Energy Regulatory Reform Initiative (e21), a multi-stakeholder policy initiative funded by the Energy Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, Xcel Energy, and Minnesota Power, conducted an assessment of the current and future prospects of Minnesota’s energy delivery system.  In December 2014, e21 released its Phase I report detailing specific consensus recommendations for statutory and regulatory actions to shift the utility business model “toward one that offers customers more options in how and where their energy is produced and how and when they use it” and to shift the regulatory systems toward performance-based compensation.  The Phase II report, which was released in December 2016, is available here.  Following e21’s initiative, in May 2015 the MN PUC commenced an inquiry into electric utility grid modernization with a focus on distribution planning.  The MN PUC has been holding a series of associated stakeholder meetings.

Pursuant to a directive from the New Hampshire Legislature, House Bill 614, the NH PUC commenced its investigation on July 30, 2015.  House Bill 614 implemented goals from the state’s 10-year energy strategy which was developed by the New Hampshire Office of Energy & Planning.  As a first step, the NH PUC is conducting an information gathering proceeding “to give stakeholders a chance to learn about grid modernization and to explore to what extent that grid modernization is workable in New Hampshire.”  After an initial comment period, the NH PUC staff is in the process of hiring a technical gird modernization expert and a facilitator/moderator to help manage the investigation.

  • New York, Department of Public Service (NY DPS), Case No. 14-M-0101, Proceeding on Motion of the Commission in Regard to Reforming the Energy Vision (NY-REV).

Leading one of the most widely discussed and involved grid modernization efforts, the New York Public Service Commission (NY PSC) officially instituted the NY-REV proceeding in April 2014. NY-REV is an outgrowth of New York Governor Cuomo’s State Energy Plan and earlier Commission investigations.  NY-REV is split into two parallel tracks: Track One is focused on issues related to developing a Distributed System Platform framework, and Track Two is focused on regulatory changes and ratemaking issues.  NY DPS staff issued a straw proposal for Track One issues in August 2014, and a white paper related to Track Two issues in July 2015.  As the working groups and NY DPS staff continue to consider the tracked issues, the NY PSC has also been instituting offshoot proceedings to address issues such as the future of nuclear energy, clean energy standards, and large scale renewable energy development in New York.

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