Maryland homes in on demand-side, renewable initiatives to reduce consumption, lower emissions – new MEA director

From energy efficiency and renewable energy to offshore wind energy and electric vehicles – and their impact on transmission – Maryland’s energy plate is full. Newly appointed Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) Director Abigail Ross Hopper spoke with TransmissionHub about the state’s various efforts.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in June announced Hopper as the agency’s director. Hopper, who has served as O’Malley’s energy advisor since 2010 and as acting director of the MEA since 2012, will also continue on in her role as the governor’s energy advisor, according to O’Malley’s June 12 statement.

Hopper said the agency’s work is guided by the statute that the Legislature has set as well as the governor’s strategic goals, which are to reduce the state’s energy consumption 15% by 2015, to increase in-state renewable energy generation to 20% by 2022 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020.

Those three goals are the defining measures by which the MEA does its work, she said.

The energy efficiency and in-state renewable energy goals greatly affect transmission “because if we don’t use energy, we don’t need to bring any in [and] if we create it in-state, we don’t need to move it as far,” she said. “We’re pretty focused on keeping our energy demand down and meeting it with renewable energy.”

EmPOWER Maryland programs have reduced peak demand by more than 1,000 MW, avoiding the need for six peaker plants.

“[T]hat’s a significant change,” she said, noting that the state’s utilities have bid in a fair amount of demand response into the capacity market, “so there are significant and measureable ways in which the energy efficiency goals are decreasing demand on the transmission system.”

According to the MEA, in 2008, the state General Assembly passed the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act, which set a target reduction of 15% in per capita electricity consumption and demand by 2015 from a 2007 baseline.

Since it began through September 2012, EmPOWER Maryland has helped fund measures that will reduce ratepayer energy usage by more than 2 million MWh per year and save $250m annually. Those savings will continue for years, with currently existing measures saving ratepayers $3.7bn over their useful life, the MEA added.

The rapid increase in distributed generation is having an effect and will continue to have an effect on the transmission system, Hopper said, adding that two of the big transmission lines that were planned for in Maryland – the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) and Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH) lines – were taken out of PJM Interconnection’s regional transmission expansion plan.

“[T]he demand just wasn’t there for them anymore so, there’s definitely a big change,” she said. “We’ve also done a big deployment of smart meters in Maryland. Several of our distribution utilities have already finished deploying them and several are finishing them up, so that will be another way in which the technology is affecting the distribution system and, hopefully, helping people to save energy.”

According to a March 18 update on the MEA’s website, the MEA has presented a final report to state lawmakers concluding that electricity and natural gas goals should be set beyond 2015. Further, MEA said it concludes that demand-side resources are the least-cost, lowest-risk solution to meet the anticipated increase in energy demand, and that the state should maximize the implementation of those resources as the first means of meeting its increasing energy needs.

Among other things, the MEA said it proposes numerous major changes to the EmPOWER programs that will leverage the work and experience that has been developed since 2009. Those changes, referred to as EmPOWER 3.0, are intended to work together in a holistic manner and should not be viewed as independently implementable. Rather, there will be substantial synergies from a coordinated development, design and deployment of new programs. The changes, the MEA added, will take time, effort, coordination and cooperation to be prepared for the 2014 legislative session and the 2015-2017 program implementation cycle.

The MEA said the recommendations include defining the parameters of the cost-effectiveness test to be used when analyzing a portfolio of programs as well as establishing the EmPOWER Planning Group, which will include state agencies and electric and gas suppliers and utilities, to collectively determine the quantity and cost of achievable savings available in Maryland by fuel type and sector.

Focus on reliability

On reliability improvement efforts, Hopper noted that after the derecho last summer, O’Malley created a task force, which she headed to look at reliability and resiliency in Maryland.

O’Malley on Oct. 3, 2012, released the task force’s report, which contained 11 recommendations, including a four-step implementation plan that would accelerate investment designed to strengthen the electric distribution grid.

One of the recommendations the task force made involved selective undergrounding, but it did not recommend undergrounding transmission lines, she said.

“[A]t least around here, outages of transmission lines are fairly rare, but looking at the distribution system, obviously, that’s a whole different story,” Hopper said.

The task force recommended, among other things, enhanced vegetation management to make sure that the state’s distribution system is resilient.

“We have a very close working relationship with our utilities,” she said. “Obviously, we’re not the regulators, the [state] Public Service Commission [(PSC)] is their regulator … [Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco)] and [Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE)] have filed rate cases [with the PSC] asking for some cost recovery for some reliability improvements and the state testified in support of Pepco’s request and it will testify in support of BGE’s request.”

Maryland regulators on July 12 granted an approximately $28m electric distribution rate increase to Pepco, and approved one of the company’s three proposed reliability projects.

Pepco is a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings (NYSE:POM). BGE is a subsidiary of Exelon (NYSE:EXC).

State law sets sails on offshore wind energy

The state is busy with efforts in the offshore wind energy arena as a result of the passage of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, which prompted a regulatory process that is underway, Hopper said.

The PSC has to issue guidelines and regulations for how the state’s competitive procurement process will work and must have those in place by June 30, 2014.

The PSC will address how the energy will be transmitted to the shore, she added.

The federal leasing process is also underway, she said, adding, “ We are getting closer to having a final notice of lease being issued and we hope to be fully leased by the beginning of 2014.”

Furthermore, as part of the merger between Exelon and Constellation, the state has $30m in the “offshore wind development fund,” which is being used for technical analysis of the Maryland offshore wind area as well as business development.

Furthering the offshore wind energy industry will bring job opportunities to the state, she said, noting that the state is looking at community college curricula as well as workforce development curricula, to determine “what kind of workers we need, what kind of equipment we need, what kind of training we need and putting all of that into place here in Maryland so that we’ll be ready when it’s time to build an offshore wind farm.”

Some of those efforts will be funded through the $30m. The state is also looking at federal opportunities as well as other kind of efforts “to train the workforce of the future,” she said.

Various developers have expressed interest in obtaining a lease off of Maryland’s coast, she said, but no leases have been issued.

According to a June 2012 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) document involving historic properties, the Maryland request for interest (RFI) was published in November 2010 and resulted in nine submissions of interest in obtaining commercial wind leases from eight entities. Two entities, who were later determined to be qualified to hold commercial wind leases in the area, nominated the entire RFI area, BOEM said. As a result, BOEM was able to determine that there was competitive interest in the area and published a call for information and nominations for a subset of the RFI area in February 2012.

Goal: 60,000 electric vehicles on roads by 2020

Maryland, like other states across the country, also has efforts underway involving electric vehicles.

Hopper noted that a couple of years ago, the governor sponsored legislation that passed, creating an electric vehicle infrastructure council, whose purpose is to develop a plan for the deployment of electric vehicles and the related infrastructure.

“We have a goal of having 60,000 electric vehicles on the roads by 2020 as part of our greenhouse gas emissions plan,” she said.

The state has implemented tax credits for qualifying electric vehicles, as well as tax credits for electric vehicle charging stations. Other benefits for drivers of electric or hybrid vehicles include being able to drive on HOV lanes.

“[W]e’re trying to incent it in those ways,” she said, adding, “[W]e have $1m in our capital budget this year to put additional electric vehicle charging stations in the parking lots at Marc stations and at Metro stations. We use [American Recovery and Relief Act (ARRA)] money to put charging stations around the state, so we’re very focused on developing the infrastructure that we need.”

SemaConnect is an Annapolis-based firm that builds those charging stations and the state has been supportive of its efforts, she said, adding, “They’re a good success story of a company that is really benefiting from this new economy.”

According to the MEA, in partnership with the Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative, SemaConnect was one of several vendors contracted to supply 60 charging stations across the state. Part of the MEA’s Electric Vehicle Initiative Program, the award helped SemaConnect accelerate its development and certification, and provided the impetus it needed to grow, the MEA said.

After satisfying the MEA award, SemaConnect secured commercial orders in the private sector, and as of spring 2012, SemaConnect had installed more than 400 of its ChargePro Charging stations across the United States.

Hopper said there are efforts underway at the PSC to monitor the vehicles’ impact on the electric grid, including a pilot project that the PSC set up on how to charge people for the electricity they use to charge their electric vehicles.

“It’s not going to crash the grid today, by any means, but … rapid deployment of both distributed generation and electric vehicles will have an impact on the grid and it’s something that we need to plan for and not just hope everything goes okay,” Hopper said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2888 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.