By - Jim Vess

States making strides in grid modernization through a variety of initiatives and approaches

Energize Weekly, December 13, 2017

Grid modernization activities, which had been focused in a few high-profile states such as California and New York, are now increasingly becoming a nationwide movement, according to an annual survey by the GridWise Alliance.

The alliance—a coalition of businesses, academic institutions and organizations promoting grid development—has been issuing its Grid Modernization Index since 2014.

“Many states are undertaking grid modernization initiatives or proceedings, including facilitating the adoption of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), DERs [distributed energy resources], implementing pricing schemes and demand response (DR) mechanisms, and enacting other related policies,” the survey said.

Those efforts are also being driven by states, cities and corporations that are setting 100 percent renewable energy targets. “The grid is changing to accommodate new cost-effective technologies and evolving consumer expectations,” the survey said.

There are 36 states taking some action on grid modernization, according to the NC Clean Energy Technology Center.

“Each state is acting in its own way and at its own pace,” according to GridWise. “New York and other states have undertaken substantial grid modernization proceedings and comprehensive changes, while others are moving in a more piecemeal fashion, looking only at certain aspects of the grid. This diversity emphasizes the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to grid modernization.”

To be sure, California remains the leader in smart grid development, according to the index, which scored activity based on state support, customer engagement and grid operations.

“California’s aggressive move to enact strong policies—including those that advance grid modernization, renewable energy, electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and energy storage—have resulted in consistently high rankings in each of the three categories,” the index said.

“California’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), carbon reduction goals, and strong DERs market have forced it to move forward quickly on all fronts,” the report said.

The top five states were rounded out by Illinois, which has also been a consistent leader in the field, Texas, Maryland and Oregon. The GridWise analysis is based on data collected between late 2016 and August 2017.

Illinois’ major investor-owned utilities have been making upgrades since 2012, including the installation millions of smart meters. That has enabled the development of time-varying rates (TVR) for customers and improved outage management.

Except for Illinois and Texas, the 13 highest-ranked states are all located on the West Coast, in the mid-Atlantic or in the desert Southwest

While the top five had not changed from the last survey, though Oregon dropped from second to fifth, the index found several states making big improvements in their scores.

Rhode Island showed the biggest improvement in index scoring as Gov. Gina Raimondo has been a strong supporter of strategic energy goals and clean energy, and initiated the state Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) Power Sector Transformation Initiative. Rhode Island was ranked 23 among states.

Colorado also showed sharp improvement, particularly in improved customer experience through upgraded forecasting techniques that integrate renewable resources, clean energy analytics and new offerings to customers.

In June 2017, the Colorado PUC approved a pilot program for Xcel Energy decoupling revenue from selling kilowatt-hours and more than $500 million for a grid modernization for the utility. Colorado ranked 18.

Washington State also made big strides with the continued development of its Clean Energy Fund. In 2016, the legislature approved more than $100 million in capital budget funds to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency development and deployment.

In May, for example, the fund finalized $7 million in grants to utilities to further their work on electricity “microgrid” projects. Spokane-based private utility Avista, and the Snohomish County Public Utility District each were awarded $3.5 million.

The survey found other states were also pursuing innovative strategies. Hawaii has a three-pronged program creating a new Reliability Standards Working Group, developing storage and advance grid infrastructure, and connecting the islands by undersea transmission lines. Hawaii was ranked 11.

Massachusetts is requiring its utilities to submit grid modernization plans, which include TVRs and advanced metering functionality. It is also moving forward on energy efficiency, data access and a 200 MW-by-2020 energy storage mandate. Massachusetts is ranked 29.

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