T&D Magazine: Pursuing the Electric System of the Future, Before You Have To

April 18, 2019 | Media

Below is an excerpt from an article Doug Scott, vice president of electricity and efficiency at the Great Plains Institute, wrote for Transmission & Distribution (T&D) Magazine.

Excerpt originally published in T&D Magazine on April 12, 2019. Read the full article here. 

The e21 initiative in Minnesota, convened by GPI and its partner, the Center for Energy and Environment, is an example of one of these (stakeholder) processes. Remarkably, it began as an idea among Minnesota’s energy system stakeholders. There was no legislative, gubernatorial or regulatory commission mandate, but only a desire to plan for Minnesota’s energy future before it became necessary because of a crisis (Minnesotans are used to planning for winter). Beginning in 2014, the group—roughly 40 stakeholders who met at least monthly for two years—established guiding principles and undertook substantial educational efforts on a number of specific issues. Then in 2015, the group wrote action-oriented reports on grid modernization, integrated resource planning and performance-based utility compensation that sought to lay out key recommendations for regulators, policymakers and other actors.

Since then, e21 stakeholders have been working to implement those recommendations through a variety of projects, including new utility demand response offerings, integrated distribution planning, time-varying rates, utility electric vehicle pilot programs and the development of performance metrics to evaluate the need for utility business model reforms. The goal is to build on the stakeholder relationships that have been forged, craft proposals that are beneficial to the greatest number of stakeholders and fully vet those proposals before they go to the Public Utilities Commission. The process also provides better information to the PUC outside of the constraints of a normal rate case.

Using e21 as an example, it is easy to see how the UBM processes have synergy with the larger decarbonization projects. The grid will need to evolve to meet the needs of the consumer going forward, as well as to meet larger carbon goals. Together, the UBM and decarbonization initiatives help answer questions such as: What should our generation mix be going forward? How do we integrate the desired power mix into the grid, especially distributed resources? What are the best processes to help make this determination? Are there regulatory or legislative changes needed? What are the best rate designs to accomplish the goals?

By working on these issues now, and in as many places and with as many stakeholders as possible, we can help to design our energy future to be more customer-centric, flexible, lower in carbon emissions and more beneficial to the nation and the world, in advance of having to.