Written by: Mark Schuling, Consumer Advocate, Office of the Consumer Advocate of Iowa
The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently engaged in its second stage of its Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) process. The second installment is titled Electricity: Generation to End-Use. DOE is utilizing a formal stakeholder engagement process including a public meeting in Washington DC, followed by a series of six meetings in locations around the country to solicit input and foster public dialogue about the QER. The meeting locations were/are:
Washington, DC Public Meeting–February 4, 2016
Boston, Massachusetts–April 15, 2016
Salt Lake City, Utah–April 25, 2016
Des Moines, Iowa–May 6, 2016
Austin, Texas–May 9, 2016
Los Angeles, California–May 10, 2016
Atlanta, Georgia–May 24, 2016
I participated in the Des Moines Forum as a consumer representative. Additionally, the panels included fifteen stakeholder representatives from utilities, regional grid management operators, regulators, energy and environmental organizations, labor organizations, and consultants. The mixture of panel discussions followed by a public comment period resulted in multi-stakeholder discourse on electricity and its role in promoting economic competitiveness, energy security, and environmental responsibility. DOE anticipates completing its report by November 2016.
The meetings consisted of three panels engaged in a robust discussion on the following topics. At the Des Moines forum, the discussions included:
- Electricity Distribution and End Use: How Do We Manage Challenges and Opportunities?One of the objectives of smart grid deployment is to provide customers with better price and usage transparency. A portal allows customers to perform rate comparisons, see how their usage compares to other similar homes and businesses, and learn how to better manage usage and costs.Accurate measurement and verification (M&V) of energy efficiency savings is critical to the development of efficiency as a grid-level resource. By accurately measuring building energy use at the meter level, with proper adjustments for weather conditions, occupancy, and other factors, data analytics platforms can determine with a high degree of accuracy the consumption and load reductions actually achieved. This process enables utilities and other energy efficiency stakeholders to gain insights into actual savings achieved, as opposed to relying on databases of “deemed” or typical savings.To deliver the energy future customers desire, we must advance cost-effective clean energy through growing investments in renewable resources, including wind and solar, developing innovative customer solutions that provide flexibility and additional customer options, and modernize our system by building a smarter and stronger power grid.In the past rates were based on utility costs. Today, there are costs on both sides of the meter as well as benefits. Rates going forward need to be based on utility costs, customer costs, and benefits from customer generation to the utility system of generation and transmission.
- Bulk Power Generation and Transmission: How Can We Plan, Build, and Operate the Appropriate Amount for Future Needs?Organized markets will continue to play a significant role by making efficient unit commitment and economic dispatch decisions across a broad regional area. A well-organized market should also facilitate capacity market transactions to ensure an appropriate amount of resources are available to meet future load requirements. The organized markets should continue to work together to eliminate “seams” issues that exist between them, and should focus anew on interstate seams issues that may arise.The trend towards clean energy as old fossil fuel plants retire will continue because there is tremendous untapped potential, ongoing technological innovation, and demand for clean energy alternatives. Technological innovation is rapidly and dramatically changing the energy landscape. The cost of wind resources has fallen dramatically. Solar is particularly important as part of this discussion because it bridges the discussion of bulk generation and distributed generation and demand side resources. Energy efficiency has frequently been touted as the best, fastest and cheapest way to meet energy needs, and it has helped hold down demand and avoid the need for additional generation. Technological innovation has helped make that possible while continued innovation will open up new horizons for efficiency gains.Grid security has been a focus for some time now and continues to be a policy issue for regulators.
- Transmission Development with an Evolving Generation MixWe have seen and proven that transmission expansion done right can be a value-added enabler that increases reliability and reduces cost impacts to customers and ratepayers. In order to develop the best transmission system needed to accommodate an evolving resource mix, we need time, certainty, and acceptance. Having sufficient time to anticipate future needs, better certainty regarding policies that shape our future power grid, and consumer acceptance of the value transmission investment can provide will enable SPP’s and other planners’ ability to develop a transmission grid that maintains proper reliability at the lowest possible cost and generates myriad other benefits for the country.
The entire process can be reviewed at the DOE website. http://energy.gov/epsa/quadrennial-energy-review-stakeholder-engagement Available information includes written comments and transcribed remarks from the panelists. Public comments can still be submitted to DOE online at https://epsa.energy.gov/qer-comments/.
 Comments taken from panelists’ written or oral comments submitted at the Des Moines Forum and available on the DOE webpage.