A second attack on the energy efficiency program at the General Assembly poised to pass

When the bill was heard in the House Committee on Corporations back in March, only Douglas Gablinske, representing TEC-RI, a fossil fuel company lobbying organization, spoke in favor. National Grid’s vice president Michael Ryan spoke against the bill, as did Kat Burnham from People’s Power & Light and Carol Grant, who heads up Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources (OER). Abigail Anthony from the Acadia Centeralso spoke against the bill.

Read the full article from RIFuture.org here.

Out with the Old, In with the New: The New York DSIPs and What They Mean for the Modernized Energy Grid

The traditional system we currently use for serving the needs of energy users is quickly going out of style. The energy grid is still relying on a system that was invented almost 100 years ago (hello, the 1930s called and they want their transmission and distribution lines back!). The old classic version of the grid has served an important purpose for getting energy to consumers reliably and safely, but today’s energy fashion is more demanding. While the old grid excelled at sending energy one-way from generators to consumers, the new energy grid needs to be able to accessorize by incorporating distributed energy resources (“DER”) such as solar and wind energy, active load management, and energy efficiency programs. DER will enable the development of a grid that is increasingly resilient, flexible, and adaptable to the needs of all energy consumers. In New York, a process is under way to try to bring these innovative new options online.

A modernized energy grid doesn’t happen overnight. States across the Northeastern U.S. are trying to figure out how to facilitate the transition from a traditional energy grid system to a more modernized grid. The Distributed System Implementation Plan (“DSIP”) process initiated by the New York Public Service Commission (“PSC” or “Commission”) may be one model for helping utilities make a smooth and efficient transition.

The Commission has required all electric service utilities to create and maintain comprehensive Plans detailing the processes by which they will transform the traditional one-way electric grid into a more dynamic and integrated grid that can manage two-way flows, is more resilient, and produces fewer carbon emissions. The DSIPs are a comprehensive source of information for the public and serve to consolidate several important pieces of New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (“REV”) strategy.  They are also intended to be a source of data and information to assist third-party DER providers with planning and investment. The new energy grid will require joint decision-making and planning between utilities, third-party providers, consumers, regulatory bodies, and other interested parties. This means that transparency and visibility are paramount to achieving a modernized grid.

The DSIP process is novel in that it has required utilities to make their internal decision-making more transparent and begin making joint planning decisions. This type of practice has potential for creating a collaborative environment that produces a constructive transition. The DSIP process has done well in New York to:

  • Provide insight into key decision-making processes of utilities, especially regarding the use of DER in addressing system needs
  • Provide a baseline for current data-gathering capabilities as well as capabilities regarding load forecasting and accommodating DER
  • Create a space for joint decision-making and planning between utilities
  • Involve stakeholders on various key issues

While the DSIPs that the utilities produced are important and useful, in many ways they fall short of what was expected of them. Some improvements that should be made to the DSIPs include:

  • Valuable data – for example regarding hosting capacity, DER forecasting, and DER impacts on the grid – has not yet been included in the DSIPs and the utilities have not in many cases provided sufficient plans for providing the data
  • Many of the plans that have been provided are a good start, but are still not sufficiently detailed or specific enough to be useful for the public and third-parties, for example, almost no timelines for implementation are provided
  • There is a general lack of description regarding how various processes, such as forecasting and making decisions about using DER for system needs, will be re-assessed and evolved as technologies and data-gathering capabilities improve
  • Stakeholder process has been utility-centric and lacked necessary oversight by the state energy regulatory body to ensure fair and meaningful engagement by all interested parties, including at the scoping stage of the process.

In sum, the DSIP process provides one model for states to facilitate the transition to the modernized energy grid, but they should look for opportunities to build on New York’s model. These first DSIPs were filed in 2016. Updated DSIPs will be filed in June 2018, giving utilities another opportunity to seek and receive the level of detailed data and planning that is needed to inform decision-making by other stakeholders and in other states.

Summaries of Important DSIP Focus Areas

Some of the most relevant aspects of the DSIPs are briefly described and assessed below. For more information about the New York DSIPs, read Acadia Center’s full Summary Analysis or the DSIP documents available in the proceedings.

Forecasting is the process by which utilities make predictions about energy load on the grid. Utilities also use forecasting to predict penetration of different DER technologies on the grid. These predictions have varied implications for what the grid needs to ensure reliable and safe power to all customers. The DSIPs provide a first glimpse into the calculations that utilities use and the impacts that DER are expected to have on forecasting. However, the DSIPs also reveal that utilities need to improve their forecasting processes and especially that they need to continue refining their methods for predicting DER penetration as well as DER impacts on the grid.

Utilities’ plans for accommodating and enabling DER on the energy grid are addressed in the DSIPs. As DER increase, their impacts on the grid increase. Distributed generation (such as wind and solar) for example, will increasingly be able to inject energy into the grid from various locations. The current energy grid can only manage a limited amount of distributed generation since it is currently only configured to manage energy flowing from a select few large generators into the homes and businesses of energy users. To optimize development of DER, third-party developers need to have detailed information about where DER can be accommodated and where DER might be most beneficial. The DSIPs provide important information about when and how this information will be available. They also describe their plans for streamlining the interconnection processes for distributed generators. These efforts will go a long way to reduce barriers for integrating DER with the grid, but the DSIPs also show a lack of preparation and planning for actively encouraging more DER. Increasing DER will be invaluable for enhancing resiliency and flexibility as well as decreasing carbon emissions.

Non-wires alternatives are DER that are procured by utilities to address the needs of the energy grid. Traditionally, utilities simply invest in more traditional infrastructure when the need arises. These types of upgrades are costly for the utility and thus for ratepayers. Alternatively, DER can be more cost-effective and can be used to avoid or postpone traditional infrastructure investments. The DSIPs provide clear analysis of the types of projects that they consider suitable for using non-wires alternatives. The utilities have defined a narrow range of projects that are suitable for these alternatives, and limiting the range of possible projects in this way means that there will be missed opportunities to address a wider range of system needs.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (“AMI”) is important for advancing grid modernization efforts. It will enable utilities to vastly improve data-gathering capabilities and increase their ability to control energy load on the system. In the past, meters were only needed to measure energy used within a time frame, usually one month. With AMI, meters will be able to report hourly or even near to real-time data about energy use. This information will be invaluable for load forecasting and for better understanding DER impacts on the grid. Utilities will also be able to share data with customers – empowering them to better manage their own energy use. AMI also enables strategies to optimize the grid, like demand response, time-varying rates, and active load management. These strategies are based on increasing energy consumption during off-peak periods and decreasing it during peak hours. The DSIPs show that all utilities are planning to implement AMI over the next several years. However, the utilities are not consistent in how they present their plans for AMI roll-out. Some utilities provide excellent summaries or even include their full plans in the appendix of their DSIP. Other utilities provide almost no summary and simply refer to other proceedings.

Electric Vehicles will be key for achieving New York’s carbon emissions reduction goals. New York has made clear goals for increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road. This will require increased infrastructure, such as charging stations. Utilities are expected to be proactive about planning for and enabling the electric vehicle market. The DSIPs show that utilities are implementing pilot projects, mostly aimed at better understanding how these vehicles are used and charged, which will in turn help utilities better understand their impact on the grid. The utilities have also jointly produced a plan for creating an “EV Readiness Framework” which will guide their actions for preparing for electric vehicles. The DSIPs lack any concrete plans for going beyond pilot projects to implementing any wide-scale infrastructure investments for electric vehicles.

The DSIPs include investment plans that indicate how and where the utilities will spend money in the next several years to begin the transition to a modernized energy grid. Generally, utilities are investing in new systems and capabilities that will enhance data-gathering, load management, and DER integration, which will in turn increase grid reliability and efficiency. Utilities also need to invest in improving customer engagement by providing understandable billing and secure data exchange platforms.

Governor Raimondo Nominates Acadia Center’s Abigail Anthony to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission

Providence, R.I. — Today, Abigail Anthony, Ph.D., will appear before the Rhode Island Senate for hearings to confirm her appointment by Governor Gina Raimondo as commissioner on the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (RIPUC). Dr. Anthony is currently director of Acadia Center’s Rhode Island Office and its Grid Modernization Initiative.

Since Dr. Anthony began at Acadia Center in 2007, she has had a leading role in advancing Rhode Island’s energy efficiency policies and grid modernization to achieve a sustainable and consumer-friendly energy system. This work will continue as she joins the Rhode Island PUC, which is working at the behest of Governor Raimondo to develop a more dynamic regulatory framework that will enable Rhode Island and its utilities to advance a cleaner, lower-cost energy system.

“In the decade that Abigail has been leading Acadia Center’s work in Rhode Island, the state has become a national leader in energy efficiency and adopting reforms to advance clean energy,” said Daniel Sosland, president of Acadia Center. “Abigail’s efforts have been instrumental in this progress and have helped build the foundation for a cleaner, more consumer-friendly and lower-cost energy system for Rhode Island’s businesses and residents. Governor Raimondo’s recent directive to take steps to modernize the power grid indicates that the state is serious about building a clean energy future. RIPUC will play a central role in determining Rhode Island’s energy future. Acadia Center will miss Abigail, but we are excited that she will bring her thoughtful, reasoned approach to the challenging issues before the PUC.”

In collaboration with the Office of Energy Resources and Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, the Public Utilities Commission is currently working to draft regulations that will allow clean energy resources to be integrated into the grid more easily. To comply with the Governor’s directive, they will explore utility function and compensation, the effects of adopting electric vehicles and electric heating, and means of expanding customer and third-party participation.

Today’s Senate committee hearing has been scheduled to confirm Dr. Anthony’s nomination. Acadia Center looks forward to continuing its work in Rhode Island to advance a clean energy future that will build a stronger economic future, improve public health and reduce climate pollution through initiatives expanding energy efficiency, clean energy and transportation, power grid modernization and community energy.

Media Contacts:
Daniel Sosland, President
dsosland@acadiacenter.org, 207.236.6470

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617.742.0054 ext. 107

Acadia Center
144 Westminster Street, Suite 203
Providence, RI 02903

RI Public Utilities Commission Votes for Three-Year Energy Efficiency Targets

PROVIDENCE, RI – On April 27, 2017, the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council’s (EERMC) 2018-2020 Energy Savings Targets for Rhode Island in order to help save consumers money on their utility bills and boost Rhode Island’s economy. The 2018-2020 Energy Savings Targets for electricity and natural gas were developed collaboratively by key stakeholders representing a wide range of consumer interests, including the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, the Office of Energy Resources, the EERMC, National Grid, Acadia Center, and People’s Power and Light.

Saving electricity and natural gas through energy efficiency reduces consumers’ energy bills, lowers the cost of doing business in the state, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The 2018-2020 Energy Savings Targets are designed to save over 580,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity and 1.2 million MMBTu of natural gas, an amount equivalent to the energy use of over 43,000 homes for one year. The electric savings targets peak in 2018 and decline slightly in the following years and the natural gas savings follow a modest increase over the same three years.

Rhode Island is a national leader in energy efficiency, earning top scores from the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy year after year. In 2016, Rhode Island earned a perfect score for the state’s cost-effective energy efficiency policies and programs for the third year in a row by achieving annual electricity savings of close to 3% of retail sales. Despite facing among the most ambitious energy savings targets in the nation, National Grid has met or exceeded Rhode Island’s energy savings targets every year since 2013.

“Rhode Island is poised to continue its success thanks to strong and mature energy efficiency policies and programs that encourage energy efficiency and make it easier for residents and businesses to make smart energy decisions, including rebates, financing options, and technical assistance,” said Acadia Center Rhode Island Director Abigail Anthony. Dr. Anthony represents environmental interests on the state’s Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council (EERMC), which provides independent input and oversight to National Grid’s electric and natural gas efficiency programs.

The 2018-2020 Energy Savings Targets are based on a quantitative analysis and evaluation of the opportunity for cost-effective energy savings in Rhode Islanders’ homes and businesses. This means that the financial benefits of the energy saved must be greater than the costs of saving it. The analysis considers the potential for existing and new technologies, innovations, and strategies to reduce energy use. National Grid will file a Three-Year Plan to achieve the newly approved energy savings targets with the Public Utilities Commission on September 1, 2017, and subsequently will file detailed annual energy efficiency plans and budgets each November for the Commission’s review and consideration.

Media Contacts:

Abigail Anthony, Director, Rhode Island Office
401-267-0600, aanythony@acadiacenter.org

Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
617-742-0054 x107, kwazny@acadiacenter.org