Nevada regulator seeks to examine whether electric service providers should use blockchain-based solutions to certify PECs

Public Utilities Commission of Nevada Commissioner Ann Pongracz on Sept. 25 proposed to open a docket, Docket No. 18-09008, to examine current regulations governing Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to determine whether electric service providers should be authorized to utilize blockchain-based solutions to track and certify Nevada portfolio energy credits (PECs) for the benefit of customers.

As noted in her “statement in support of opening the proposed investigatory docket,” a rulemaking in another docket, Docket No. 16-07032, was initiated in part because the Nevada Tracks Renewable Energy Credit, or NVTREC, is no longer the optimal system for tracking PECs.

NV Energy has stopped maintaining the software and its continued use places additional demands on commission staff’s limited time resources, according to Pongracz. In addition, Pongracz said in her statement, the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System, or WREGIS, has a 1-MW threshold and therefore is not well suited to providing the value of PECs to the smaller generators.

“In an attempt to address some of these shortfalls, I propose that the commission investigate whether a [blockchain-] based platform could be a better way to track portfolio energy credits for the purpose of meeting the” RPS, Pongracz said. “We often hear about blockchain technology in the context of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin; however, the technology also has many other applications. Several providers are exploring use of blockchain to provide simpler, easier, and more accessible PEC tracking and trading for the general public including smaller generators.”

NV Energy will work with the commission "and other stakeholders throughout this process to determine the best way to track portfolio energy credits," NV Energy Communications Manager Jennifer Schuricht told TransmissionHub on Oct. 4. "NV Energy is interested in exploring and understanding how emerging technologies can improve the energy products and services we offer customers."

As noted in Regulatory Operations Staff’s comments submitted on Aug. 6 in Docket No. 16-07032, Nevada statute required that the commission establish a system of PECs that may be used to comply with the state’s RPS (PEC Trading Program). In response, the commission adopted Nevada Administrative Code (NAC) 704.8901 – 704.8937 in Docket No. 02-5029 and appointed staff as the PEC Trading Program Administrator.

Staff added that currently, NVTREC and WREGIS are the web-based tracking systems used to facilitate the PEC Trading Program and are the only means to track PECs that the commission accepts toward satisfying the Nevada RPS.

Discussing the current PEC Trading Program process utilizing NVTREC, staff said, in part, that the application for a new renewable energy system to participate in the PEC Trading Program utilizing NVTREC must go through multiple channels before the system can be registered and certificates may be issued. The first step in the process requires the owner of the renewable energy system or owner’s representative to complete and submit an application to the PEC Trading Program Administrator. If the application is acceptable, staff added, the Resource and Market Analysis Division (RMA) Administrative Assistant (AA) creates a file for each application and provides the file to an engineer to inspect the system and estimate the systems production.

To set up a residential account in NVTREC, the PEC Administrator or RMA AA creates a log-in name and password, and after a series of steps, sends a letter to the participant that includes instructions on changing passwords. Commercial applicants set up their own NVTREC accounts and input the system details, staff added. Once the NVTREC account is set up, for most systems, the participant logs in directly to report system production – that is to be done on a quarterly basis.

The application for a new renewable energy system to participate in the PEC Trading Program utilizing WREGIS requires fewer staff resources, staff added, noting that generally, a system owner is responsible for registering a system with WREGIS. The PEC Administrator’s role within WREGIS is to act as the state representative for Nevada and works with the system owner to verify that a system’s generation is eligible for use toward the Nevada RPS. Staff also said that unlike NVTREC, WREGIS certificates are issued electronically based on an algorithm within the program and no individual perusal of the reports is necessary.

Rulemaking

According to the commission’s Sept. 11 draft proposed order in Docket No. 16-07032 – which is the most recent document in that docket that is posted on the commission’s website – the commission in August 2016 opened a rulemaking to amend, adopt, or repeal regulations pertaining to PECs.

The regulation, appended to the draft proposed order as Attachment 1, authorizes staff to petition the commission for an order requiring certain categories of portfolio energy systems to participate in a system of PECs other than the system of PECs currently provided for by regulation. Under current regulation, the draft proposed order added, portfolio energy systems must use the system of PECs established by the commission to comply with the portfolio standard.

“This regulation will facilitate the transition away from the current [PEC] system maintained by the commission and increase the marketability of” PECs, the draft proposed order noted.

Staff and NV Energy, for instance, support adoption of the proposed regulation in its final form, the draft proposed order said, adding that “the commission finds that it is in the public interest to adopt as permanent the proposed regulation appended hereto as Attachment 1.”

Article amended at 9:58 a.m., EST, on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, to add comments from NV Energy Communications Manager Jennifer Schuricht.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3067 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.