Binz, Ohio's Roberto call on regulators to be more proactive

Former commissioners speak candidly at smart grid event

Smart Grid Today
October 17, 2020

Regulation of the US power industry "needs an overhaul in a very fundamental way" so that regulators are less reactive and more encouraging of technology-driven answers to the grid's problems, Ron Binz, principal at Public Policy Consulting, told attendees of the National Summit on Integrating Energy Efficiency & Smart Grid in Washington, DC, this week. Binz is former chair of the Colorado PUC and former nominee to run FERC under President Barack Obama, a nomination that was withdrawn by Binz when he became aware of political pressure against it in the Senate (SGT, Oct-2).

The days of reactive regulators ought to be numbered, he argued at the summit hosted by the Assn for Demand Response & Smart Grid (ADS). Power regulators can be both legislators and adjudicators but are overly focused on the latter role, he lamented. He ran the Colorado PUC from from 2007-2011.

But DG and other uses of smart grid technology could spur PUCs to take up their legislative duties, he added. Mandatory TOU rates for a utility's upper percentile of power consumers is an example of the more proactive regulation favored by Binz. They are needed because "making time of use voluntary is never going to work," he added.

A lack of dynamic pricing is "the largest barrier" to growth of smart grid technologies in the residential sector, Binz said.

Speaking more freely as an energy expert than an administration nominee, Binz this week addressed the very issue that reportedly sank his nomination: the role of regulators in shaping the future of the power industry.

QUOTABLE: [Commissioners] have to establish an agenda for something you want to see accomplished by your commission. You have to continuously battle to keep that forward-looking vision alive and find ways to serve it in what you do as a commissioner. – Ron Binz, principal at Public Policy Consulting and a former Colorado PUC chair, to attendees of the National Summit on Integrating Energy Efficiency & Smart Grid in Washington, DC.

Binz's belief in the value of proactive regulators drew the ire of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which in July labeled him a dangerous pick for FERC. A dozen former FERC commissioners rose to Binz's defense in a letter to the newspaper (SGT, Aug-13).

Binz was not the only former regulator pressing for a new paradigm at the ADS conference.

Ohio's Roberto agrees

QUOTABLE: Regulators don't mean to be backward-looking. It's the system we're in. Commissions are set up to be reactive, responsive –Cheryl Roberto, associate VP for the Environmental Defense Fund's Smart Power Initiative and former Ohio PUC commissioner.

"We didn't go out and say [to utilities], 'This is exactly what we are looking for, these are the principles that we want you to consider when you bring us portfolios,'" said Cheryl Roberto at the event. She is associate VP for the Environmental Defense Fund's Smart Power Initiative and former Ohio PUC commissioner.

Consider the difficulty the Ohio PUC had in implementing a 2008 state law requiring utilities to meet separate standards for peak demand and energy efficiency, Roberto implored the audience. "We found there was a body of knowledge around energy efficiency that was much clearer than peak demand.

As the commission developed regulations, it pushed peak demand and energy together "and asked for them to be presented to us in a portfolio by the utilities so that it became a blended project," she added. Peak demand and energy efficiency were addressed in tandem, an integrated approach that Roberto would like to see more of at PUCs.

© 2013 Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc. IMPORTANT: This article was reproduced from the October 17, 2020 issue of Smart Grid Today with the limited permission of the owner. To view the full story on Smart Grid Today’s website, please visit

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