The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC), in an April 1 order, established a formal process to obtain additional input from interested parties on electric grid modernization, to create an open dialogue on key grid modernization topics, and to reach as much agreement as possible on regulatory opportunities for advancing grid modernization in the state.
As also noted in the order, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan last July signed House Bill 614, implementing goals of the state 10-year energy strategy developed by the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning. An element of that bill required the PUC to open a docket on electric grid modernization, which the PUC did last July.
The PUC added that an order of notice invited comments, which were due last September, regarding “the definition, or elements, of grid modernization that should be included in this investigation.” The PUC said that it received comments from all the electric utilities, the Office of Energy and Planning, the New Hampshire Office of the Consumer Advocate, and others.
The PUC said that it believes that grid modernization can spur the development of cost-effective distributed energy resources, including energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation and storage technologies. The PUC also said that it expects the benefits of grid modernization to include:
- Improving the reliability, resiliency and operational efficiency of the grid
- Reducing generation, transmission and distribution costs
- Empowering customers to use electricity more efficiently and to lower their electricity bills
- Facilitating the integration of distributed energy resources
One of the PUC’s goals in the investigation is to ensure that grid modernization results in net benefits for customers, meaning that the overall benefits of grid modernization initiatives must exceed the overall costs; that all customers must have a meaningful opportunity to enjoy grid modernization benefits; and that the cost of grid modernization are allocated fairly among all customers.
The PUC added that it is initiating a formal “working group” process to obtain input from the distribution companies and other organizations to assist the PUC with the development of appropriate regulatory policies to foster successful electricity grid modernization in the state. The PUC said that it has retained Raab Associates Ltd., to facilitate and mediate the working group process on behalf of the PUC. The commission also said that it has retained Synapse Energy Economics to provide consulting services to PUC staff and to assist the working group as needed.
The goal of the working group will be to develop recommendations to the PUC on the issues and questions outlined in the April 1 order. Those recommendations will be delivered to the PUC in a final report prepared by Raab with the assistance of PUC staff and its consultants, as needed, the PUC added.
To facilitate stakeholder discussion, the PUC said it would be helpful to identify some possible outcomes and capabilities of grid modernization. For that purpose, the PUC said that it will take advantage of the work done previously by the Massachusetts Electric Grid Modernization Stakeholder Working Group. That group’s report to Massachusetts regulators includes a table that identifies the different outcomes that grid modernization might enable, the different capabilities or activities that might be needed to achieve those outcomes, and the different technologies that can be used to enable those capabilities or activities.
One of the first tasks for the working group will be to review the elements in that table and to modify them as appropriate for the discussions in New Hampshire, the PUC added.
The PUC said that it proposes eight day-long working group meetings over the course of 10 months to complete the working group process and then the delivery of a final report to the PUC. The first working group meeting will be on April 29.
Raab, in consultation with PUC staff, will establish the working group, the PUC said, adding that it expects that Eversource Energy (NYSE:ES), Unitil (NYSE:UTL)and Liberty Utilities will fully participate in the working group process.
The PUC said that it expects the working group to address several questions regarding the role of grid modernization in the context of integrated resource planning (IRP), including:
- Does the current IRP requirements sufficiently define the scope of grid modernization capabilities and resources to be assessed in each plan, in terms of grid-facing and customer-facing grid modernization technologies?
- How frequently should utilities be required to file their plans?
- Should the PUC review of the plans be modified in any way to account for grid modernization planning needs and challenges?
The PUC said that it also directs the working group to investigate the opportunities for different types of advanced meters and advanced metering options to provide the functionality needed to support grid modernization. The working group is to consider such questions regarding advanced metering options:
- What options are there for achieving advanced metering functionality that will be legally and economically viable?
- Are there ways to “future proof” metering infrastructure to ensure long-term value of any investment in these technologies?
The PUC also said that the working group is to investigate various rate design opportunities available, such as time-varying rates, fixed charges, minimum bills, demand charges and declining or inclining block rates.
Among other things, the PUC noted that grid modernization technologies and practices have prompted calls in other states for new ways of addressing utility cost recovery and financial incentives, with some stakeholders calling for new regulatory models to better fit the needs of the “utility of the future.” The PUC said that it seeks input on whether any changes to the current utility cost recovery and financial incentives are necessary to achieve the desired outcomes.