Grid Flexibility: Methods for Modernizing the Power Grid

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An abundance of new technologies are now available to produce cleaner, cheaper electricity. But in order to take advantage of them, system operators must build a flexible electricity grid. This paper reviews the types of resources that can deliver grid flexibility and provides case studies and recommendations for how to incorporate flexibility into grid systems.

Improving Performance in Publicly-Owned Utilities

Permalink to Improving Performance in Publicly-Owned Utilities

This paper presents case studies about performance management in publicly-owned utilities, drawing out concrete steps that can support municipal utilities, public utility districts, and cooperatives to adapt to changing technology and market trends. These steps – which involve taking “no regrets” actions, exploring evolutions in government, and considering more drastic action if performance lags – can enable POUs to deliver greater value to their customers.

Who Should Own and Operate Distributed Energy Resources?

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This paper, an addendum to An Adaptive Approach to System Optimization, presents a series of case studies on various ways to integrate cost-effective distributed technologies that have run into outdated regulatory models. It identifies strengths and weaknesses associated with utility-owned and operated DERs, third-party-operated DERs, and customer-operated DERs.

Moving Toward Value in Utility Compensation, Part 1 – Revenue & Profit

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This paper argues that the financial “value engine”—the difference between a utility’s return on investment and its cost of capital—drives shareholder returns. Regulators should use this value engine to align utilities’ financial motivations with delivering value to customers and society.

An Adaptive Approach to Promote System Optimization

Permalink to An Adaptive Approach to Promote System Optimization

This paper, a submission for the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA) 51st State Challenge, synthesizes current thinking on system optimization by returning to first principles of rate design and market structure. By starting from first principles, the recommendations can be widely applied across jurisdictions with different market structures, resources, and demographics, including but not limited to a hypothetical 51st State.

Accelerating Carbon Reductions from California’s Electricity Sector

Permalink to Accelerating Carbon Reductions from California’s Electricity Sector

This paper recommends policy initiatives that California can take in order to meet Gov. Brown’s renewable energy, energy efficiency, and transportation fuel use goals for 2030. Recommendations include expansion of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, a carbon standard to decarbonize the electricity supply, and a new energy efficiency performance incentive for utilities.

Power Systems of the Future

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This report, written for the Major Economies Forum, describes the power sector transformation underway across the globe. The transformation will undoubtedly look different around the world, but this paper posits five potential pathways to a dramatically-improved power system. Policymakers can use these pathways to proactively guide the sector’s transformation. A 2-page report summary can be found here.

New Utility Business Models: Utility and Regulatory Models for the Modern Era

Permalink to New Utility Business Models: Utility and Regulatory Models for the Modern Era

This whitepaper, written as part of America’s Power Plan, describes the changing role of electric utility companies as new technologies for energy efficiency and distributed generation pose threats to their traditional business models. Aging infrastructure, changing customer demands, and stricter environmental and climate regulations additionally incite the need for evolution of utility structures. This paper offers recommendations for several types of utility structures, but focuses mostly on vertically-integrated and regulated utilities. It outlines three future scenarios for utilities; minimum utility involvement, medium involvement as smart integrator; or orchestrator; or maximum role as energy services utility.

Renewable Energy Policy Experience: Lessons for Japan

Permalink to Renewable Energy Policy Experience: Lessons for Japan

This paper was written at the request of the government of Japan to describe best practices in renewable energy policy design, using numerous international case studies as examples. It evaluates Japan’s status with respect to these policies and makes recommendations, including: update Japan’s transmission system, reduce the power of utility monopolies, implement policies to support biomass and geothermal, and strengthen clean energy R&D.

Two Kinds of Demand-Response

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Demand-response will continue to play an important role in modernizing the power system by allowing grid operators to control electricity demand. This paper describes two ways that demand-response can be used to optimize electricity flows, avoiding peak capacity issues and balancing unprecedented levels of variable generation.