3 approaches to smart grid contrasted at gathering of regulators

November 17, 2020

A roundtable held in Atlanta this week on state regulators' handling of smart grid proposals in Hawaii, Oklahoma and Maryland provided a reminder of just how different approaches in the US can be, Dan Delurey, executive director of the Demand Response Coordinating Committee, told us this week.  He attended a NARUC-FERC gathering at NARUC's annual meeting, where the Smart Response Collaboratives formally emerged as a replacement for the two FERC-NARUC collaboratives that have been meeting at NARUC conferences.

“In Hawaii, the commission pulled back from a smart grid process after many months and decided it needed to know more,” said Scott Hempling, executive director of the National Regulatory Research Institute, who led the discussion.  “In Oklahoma, the commission decided it knew enough and proceeded to approve a major AMI deployment.”

“In Maryland, the commission rejected a proposal from the state's major utility and required them to retool it, including relative to customer education, before finally approving it,” he added.

Each of the three states was represented in the discussion.

Hawaii was initially ready to move on smart grid, but regulators there realized that the issues and needs of stakeholders, the public and commission were such that it made sense to “pull up” and develop a roadmap that could help guide the state on smart grid, said Carlito Calibosa, chair of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Despite Calibosa's comments during the roundtable, Hawaii's PUC stepped back from its July request that Hawaiian Electric create a smart grid roadmap, Peter Rosegg, a spokesperson for the utility, told us last month.  “The PUC said it doesn't need an official docket opened but instead wants us to keep them informed, informally and on an ongoing basis, with more precision about what we're going after and how we'll deal with the changes happening daily in smart grid technology,” he said (SGT, Oct-27).

A key concern to Oklahomans is reliability and restoration, especially since the state has recently suffered two “hundred-year storms” in the space of five years, said Bob Anthony, Oklahoma Corporation Commission chair.

Smart meters can help address the problems, and time-based pricing is a “natural move” given the kind of pricing consumers have in other areas like telecom, he said.

The commission Anthony chairs approved system-wide deployment of smart grid technology at OG&E -- and a surcharge to help pay for it -- in July.  OG&E is authorized to invest up to $366 million in the next three years, $127 million of which will be paid from federal stimulus funding (SGT, Jul-02).

Consumer advocates in Maryland did not have a voice when smart grid proposals first broke out, said Paula Carmody, counsel from the Maryland Office of People's Counsel.  “We had to jump into a conversation that was already underway,” she said during the discussion.  The initial lack of interest in the consumer viewpoint has since changed, she said.

Utilities have to do more than create slogans to make smart grid work, Carmody said.  Maryland lost a lot of time in educating consumers when traditional energy efficiency programs and activities receded for many years, she noted.

Baltimore Gas & Electric got its AMI program approved by the Maryland PSC this summer, but only after the commission threw out the utility's cost recovery plan (SGT, Aug-18).

© 2010 Modern Markets Intelligence Inc..  IMPORTANT: This article was reproduced from the November 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 visithttp://www.smartgridtoday.com/public/3_approaches_to_smart_grid_contrastedltbrgt_at_gathering_of_regulators.cfm?sd=31.

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