Grid Modernization and System Planning: PUCO’s Perspective

Grid Modernization and System Planning: PUCO’s Perspective

This piece was originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of electroindustry.

Beth Trombold, Commissioner, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

Commissioner Trombold, who serves as Vice- Chair of the PUCO and Co-Vice-Chair of the Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning, has focused her work extensively on grid modernization and regional electric transmission issues.

Innovation and technology are rapidly changing the world as we know it, and the electricity sector is no exception.

Consumers want control and access to information; many are constantly on their smartphones, whether  it be for social networking, shopping, managing their finances, or working. Why should electric service be any different. Consumers should be able to leverage data to manage personal energy use and costs. As new products and services become available, we must plan for their incorporation into the business of electric distribution.

In August 2018, after more than 100 hours of public forums, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) released the PowerForward Roadmap. This roadmap, which lays out a direction for grid modernization in Ohio, was developed after 127 industry experts provided presentations to help us better understand how technological enhancements could affect our future electric distribution grid. To follow, two workgroups (Data and Modern Grid, and Distribution System Planning) held over the last year further developing specifics related to grid planning and data access issues in Ohio.

On market development, the Data and Modern Grid workgroup looked at ways to realize the full potential of data from advanced meters, such as allowing customers better access to their usage data and the ability to authorize the release of that data to competitive suppliers and third parties. The group evaluated how advanced meter data is being used for wholesale settlement purposes. The use of this data for settlement (versus generic load profiling) will enable retail marketers in Ohio to develop more innovative products and services and will allow customers to  make more informed, actionable decisions about usage. The workgroups will release reports of their findings in early 2020.

The PUCO also benefits from watching what is happening in other states exploring these topics, such as Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Rhode Island, and from collaborating at the national level.

In February 2019, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), with support from U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), announced the Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning. Ohio joined the task force along with 14 other participating states and Puerto Rico, and I was honored to accept a leadership role as Co-Vice-Chair.

The two-year effort serves as a resource for states as they pursue individual paths in modernizing the grid and accommodating new technologies. The Task Force seeks to develop new pathways for comprehensive electricity planning, with the ultimate objective of improving grid reliability and resilience, optimizing the use of distributed energy resources, avoiding unnecessary costs to ratepayers, and increasing transparency of grid-related investment decisions.

The Task Force is developing guiding principles for states to consider in terms of distribution system planning and outcomes. This shared expertise will help states better frame policy discussions about the grid of the future and chart a path forward for grid modernization projects.

The Task Force held two workshops, with another two planned in 2020. Between in-person meetings, it holds regular conference calls and webinars. Each participating state brings the expertise of its commission and state energy office, and offers diversity in terms of geography, market models, planning approaches, and state goals.

For example, if a state wanted to move its utilities from traditional planning to IDP,  that effort would be impacted by whether the state is vertically integrated or fully restructured, whether  the  state has a renewable portfolio Standard, energy efficiency mandates, demand response programs, etc. The Task Force endeavors to give states model “templates” that could be used to guide like states in future integrated distribution planning efforts. The next in-person meeting is in April 2020 and the final product will be publicly released at the end of the two-year process.

The next in-person meeting is in April 2020, and the final product will be publicly released at the end of the two-year process. If you are interested in learning more about the Task Force or wish to view a library of relevant information, visit www.naruc.org/taskforce. ei

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