On March 7, 2022, NARUC facilitated a state commission staff “surge” call on Pay As You Save (PAYS) programs. Inclusive utility financing programs enable customers who may otherwise be limited by financial barriers such as poor credit, debt, and renter status to access home energy efficiency upgrades. These inclusive financing programs include tariffed on-bill loan and rebate programs, which cover the upfront costs of energy savings improvements and allow customers to pay down the investment costs through monthly payments on their electric bill. Various on-bill financing models have been adopted by utilities across the country, including PAYS which is the most common tariffed on-bill program for energy efficiency. PAYS is a market-based system developed by the Energy Efficiency Institute where the customer and utility can both benefit if the efficiency investment exceeds the cost recovery charges. On this call, commission staff from Arkansas, Georgia, and Missouri provided an overview of PAYS programs in their states as well as challenges and opportunities for other state public utility commissions to consider.
On December 13, 2021, NARUC facilitated a state commission staff “surge” call on commission approaches to calculating the social cost of greenhouse gases (SC of GHGs). SC of GHGs is an estimate of the damages resulting from the emissions of GHGs such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. The SC of GHGs – and social cost of carbon (SCC), in particular – has been used across local, state, and federal governments to inform decision-making, including by state public utility commissions for issues such as resource planning and energy efficiency and demand response programs. Legislation in several states requires that commissions and utilities adopt an SCC, and several states currently use an SCC derived by the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (IWG). On this call, commission staff from Colorado, New York, and Washington described various approaches to adopting an SCC / SC of GHGs and incorporating it into decision-making processes.
On August 30, 2021, NARUC facilitated a state commission staff “surge” call to discuss the opportunities and approaches to building diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the commission workforce. As commissions are faced with making decisions on increasingly complex questions, commission staff are also required to adapt to these challenges and exhibit expertise in a range of emerging issues such as cybersecurity, climate change, and energy justice. However, commission staff capacity to focus on both emerging as well as traditional regulatory issues may be limited by staff turnover, development, diversity, and inclusion within the commission. On this call, commission staff from three states discussed internal commission approaches to hiring, training, developing, and retaining a diverse staff workforce capable of tackling emerging challenges.
This call explored how expanding transmission capacity to bring renewable generation to load centers can help states achieve decarbonization goals. Across different regulatory environments and decarbonization goals, state public utility commissions have varying levels of oversight and urgency in reviewing new transmission assets; however, with increasing attention towards attracting investment in new transmission from policymakers and federal regulators, state commissions may want to prepare for more transmission proceedings in the coming years. Commission staff from Arizona, New York, Maryland, and Michigan shared lessons learned from major transmission proceedings .
The topic was inspired by a pair of reports from the Clean Energy Group on Massachusetts’ ConnectedSolutions storage incentive program, which applies energy efficiency budgets to facilitate storage deployment. On this call commission staff from Massachusetts, Vermont, and Hawaii shared their experiences facilitating the deployment of battery energy storage with a focus on how energy storage programs are serving underserved communities such as low- to moderate-income customers and residents of affordable housing communities.
As distributed energy resources (DERs) have proliferated around the country, DER developers and customers have generally supported making distribution system-level data more granular, transparent, and widely available. Distribution system data can facilitate DER installations by identifying optimal locations in which (a) DERs could be accommodated without distribution system upgrades or lengthy interconnection studies, or (b) DERs could help defer or lessen the need for system upgrades. However, demands for more visibility into the distribution system must be weighed against privacy and security concerns, as well as the costs of collecting, validating, and disseminating accurate data. On this call, commission staff from Vermont, Hawaii, Minnesota, and Nevada shared their approaches to data collection and sharing.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, as many electric customers are struggling to pay bills, public utility commissions are making tough choices about managing the upfront costs of energy efficiency programs with the bill savings, energy savings, and other benefits of those programs. On this call, state PUC and other agency staff from Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, and Minnesota shared how the pandemic is affecting energy efficiency programming in their states.
The COVID-19 outbreak is creating challenging economic conditions for customers, utilities, and state governments. How will ratepayer-funded clean energy and transportation electrification programs fare during what may be a prolonged economic recession? Expert speakers will share their thoughts on how utilities may need to reassess spending priorities in the near future, and what state public utility commissions should prepare for in the months ahead.
With many states setting goals for clean energy expansion, some commissions are implementing or considering methods to price the carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation. This call featured state commission staff from several states in different phases of adopting carbon pricing.
State public utility commissions utilize a variety of strategies to gather input from stakeholders in complex proceedings like grid modernization or resource planning. This discussion, the third in a three-part series, explored how utilities lead the stakeholder engagement process in some states. The first call in this series focused on third-party facilitators; the second discussed commission staff leadership. In this discussion, commission staff from Washington and Nevada shared their experiences with regulated utilities leading stakeholder input processes.
Grid modernization proceedings at state public utility commissions can be demanding processes, requiring input from a broad array of stakeholders, substantial time and resources from commission staff, and ultimately, leadership from the commission. Commissions have employed a number of strategies to manage the stakeholder input process. Generally, these strategies fall into three buckets: third-party facilitation, commission staff facilitation, or utility facilitation. In this second call in a three-part series exploring these strategies, staff from the Maryland and Minnesota commissions shared their experiences as staff facilitators and offered lessons for other commissions considering similar paths.
State public utility commissions use a variety of approaches to solicit input from stakeholders on complex issues like grid modernization or resource planning. In general, these strategies fall into three buckets: third-party facilitation, commission staff facilitation, or utility facilitation. On this call, commission staff from the District of Columbia and Arkansas shared their experiences using a third-party facilitator to engage stakeholders on grid modernization issues.
With recent technological advances, offshore wind is becoming an attractive resource to coastal states looking to expand renewable generation. However, offshore wind requires extensive new transmission investments. On this call, states with aggressive offshore wind procurement targets will discuss how their commissions are preparing to integrate these new resources.
Energy storage is a critical tool for integrating renewable energy, managing peak load, and improving grid reliability. As the cost of storage continues to decline, commissions are taking advantage of this growing resource in a variety of ways. On this call, commission staff will hear how three states have responded. Staff from Maryland will discuss a value of storage report and the impact of recent legislative action on the commission and the state’s storage market. Staff from New York will present on the state’s working group on storage integration with the New York Independent System Operator and other stakeholders, storage deployment goals, and the commission’s recent storage order. Lastly, Vermont staff will discuss a unique distributed storage aggregation program.
Most electric utilities operate under cost-of-service regulation, under which utilities request approval from state regulators for net resource and infrastructure investment plus an annual rate of return. In response to emerging technologies, changing customer demands, and public policy goals for the energy system, some commissions have begun working towards performance-based regulation (PBR). Under PBR, utility revenue remains largely cost-based, but additional revenue is earned when utilities meet commission-set performance outcomes such as greenhouse gas reductions. On this call, commission staff from Hawaii, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island shared how their states are approaching PBR.
Community solar is expanding rapidly in dozens of states, with 19 states and the District of Columbia already taking legislative or regulatory actions, or both, to establish programming basics. Plus, there are an additional 23 states where one or more utility-sponsored programs is active. Surveys by the Smart Electric Power Alliance identified 171 active utility programs at the end of 2016 and 229 at the end of 2017. GTM Research shows community solar growing rapidly, and estimates the community solar market potential is as large as 60 to 80 gigawatts by 2030, with cumulative capitalization in the range of $100 billion. Plus, there is growing interest about how to extend the benefits of community solar to also apply to community storage or even more generally to any kinds of community clean energy. During this reprise of an engaging panel from the 2019 NARUC winter policy summit in Washington, DC, speakers shared lessons learned and visions of what is on the horizon.
Natural gas storage for end use in heating and electricity generation is an important component of energy security in many states. Gas is typically injected underground for storage in natural formations including depleted reservoirs, aquifers, and salt formations, and withdrawn as needed. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that 2.5 trillion cubic feet of gas is stored in the lower 48 states and another 50 billion cubic feet is stored in Alaska. Public utility commissions are one of several entities at the state and federal level responsible for regulating gas storage facilities. On this call, commission staff from Alaska, Michigan, and Pennsylvania share perspectives on their oversight of storage operators, focusing on how commissions evaluate upgrades or modifications to existing storage facilities.
With many states responding to growing penetrations of distributed energy resources, state public utility commissions are using a number of strategies to improve the planning and operation of these resources to benefit the grid as a whole. During the NARUC Annual Meeting, the Staff Subcommittee on Energy Resources and the Environment hosted a session on hosting capacity analysis, an emerging tool to visualize the distribution grid. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council defines hosting capacity as "the amount of distributed energy resources that can be accommodated on the distribution system under existing grid conditions and operations without adversely impacting operational criteria or requiring significant infrastructure upgrades." On this surge call, speakers from the panel reprised their discussion of hosting capacity analysis for commission staff.
With electric vehicle (EV) sales rising, drivers need charging stations available in homes, workplaces, public buildings, and along roads. State public utility commissions have a key role in defining charging infrastructure ownership and rate design. Well thought-out rate design can make EVs a grid resource by encouraging EV owners to charge at off-peak times or during periods of high renewable production. On this call, commission staff from California, Oregon, Hawaii, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky discussed how their states are approaching commercial EV charging rates, offering ideas for how other states might wish to proceed.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) released a revised distributed energy resource interconnection standard in April 2018, called IEEE 1547-2018. The purpose of the revised standard is to increase DER hosting capacity while improving system reliability. However, IEEE 1547-2018 is not a plug-and-play standard. Via an Authority Governing Interconnection Requirements (AGIR), States must choose performance technologies, define use cases, select inverter settings and functionality, set timelines, and update other relevant standards. In general, the AGIR is the State Commission. On this call, Michelle Rosier from the Minnesota Public Utility Commission walked state staff through Minnesota's experience with IEEE 1547-2018.
This staff surge call explored staff questions around energy efficiency (EE) evaluation, measurement, and verification (EM&V) processes. The discussion focused on setting baselines, who performs EM&V analyses, and who identifies and approves EE measures. EM&V documents EE baselines, efficiency actions/measures, and energy savings. State Commissions have an important role overseeing customer-funded EE programs at regulated utilities, with Commission staff looking closely at EM&V and other program data to make determinations about program effectiveness. Steve Schiller from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab served as a guest moderator for a conversation with staff from Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and Washington about how EM&V works at different commissions.
Rooftop solar panels can be inaccessible to low-income residents, apartment dwellers, renters, or other constituencies. Community solar programs have emerged as a way to make solar accessible to everyone by allowing ratepayers to share in an offsite solar facility and receive credit on their electricity bills for their proportion of exported electricity. This call will feature state staff from Illinois, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia to share how community solar programs are structured to increase participation, involve hard-to-reach customers, overcome financing barriers, and contribute to the growth of solar power.
Despite varying levels of electric vehicle penetration, many states are preparing for substantial EV growth in the near future. California, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Michigan staff shared how each state is approaching two critical issues for EV growth: rate design for EV owners and deployment of charging infrastructure.
NARUC’s Center for Partnerships & Innovation and the Staff Subcommittee on Energy Resources and the Environment convened a state commission staff “surge” call, on which state staff from Alabama, Florida, California, and New Jersey discussed how states are considering utility investments in grid hardening and reliability, particularly in the face of higher damages from extreme weather. These states deal with tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms, flooding, and wildfires, and utilities have varying ideas for how to reduce the likelihood of outages. Commission staff shared what investments utilities are making, best practices for rapid recovery, and new tools Commissions should be aware of to improve reliability as the frequency and duration of extreme weather events increase.
NARUC’s Center for Partnerships & Innovation and the Staff Subcommittee on Energy Resources and the Environment convened a state commission staff “surge” call, on which state staff from Hawaii, Washington, Indiana, Ohio, and Rhode Island discussed different distribution system planning (DSP) strategies. Across these five states, there are some clear similarities in goals of DSP: multiple staff cited pursuing least-cost solutions, achieving renewable portfolio goals, and providing the most current information as DSP objectives. Commission staff agree on the importance of stakeholder engagement, improving transparency, and educating commissioners, commission staff, utilities, and others involved in the process. However, states diverge in the paths to these objectives.
With rapid growth in DER installations, utilities and commissions are paying closer attention to the capability of the distribution grid to handle these additional resources. State commission staff from Michigan, California, and Minnesota provided an update on where each state is in reassessing distribution system planning policies to integrate DERs.
Passed in the aftermath of the 1973 energy crisis, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) has now been in effect for nearly four decades. Despite a few PURPA amendments and multiple, broad changes in electricity markets, most states have not significantly updated their PURPA rules and buy-back rates since fairly soon after the law was passed. As a result, large and small qualifying facilities (QFs, in PURPA-speak), including renewable-powered generators and particularly distributed generation, could still have difficulty gaining the market foothold PURPA was initially designed to enable. Several states are reexamining PURPA implementation in light of current conditions. Join state public utility commission staff from Michigan, Oregon, Montana, and Massachusetts to discuss each state's approach to updating PURPA rules and where these efforts might lead the electricity sector.
NARUC hosted a call on March 24, 2017, as part of our "surge" effort to link state staffers to learn from each other. This call focused on how various state commissions are considering the costs and benefits of energy storage. This document summarizes presentations from Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona commission staffers and discussion among other state staffers.
NARUC hosted a call on February 6, 2017, as part of our "surge" effort to link state staffers to learn from each other. This call focused on carbon trading programs in the northeast and California: the conception and structure of these programs and their future potential for continued operation or expansion. This document summarizes presentations from Maryland and California staffers and discussion among other state staffers.
State staff came together for a technical assistance "surge" to explore enhanced oil recovery (EOR), and the implications for state regulators. We summarized the information-sharing that happened in this summary, and it's well worth a read if you want a starting point for understanding how state agencies understand and address this policy topic.