Renewable energy advocates slam utilities for slow progress under REV

With its multiple proceedings covering arcane aspects of the electric grid and theoretical discussions of compensation mechanisms, New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) process has been notoriously lacking in concrete developments.

Even when such developments occur, they may not bring all that has been promised in terms of support to transform the distribution grid. Last week both SolarCity and Advanced Energy Economy Institute (AEEI), which is representing several trade groups, filed comments on utility plans to move towards transformation of the distribution grid under the Supplemental Distribution System Implementation Plan (DSIP).

The Supplemental DSIP was filed jointly by the state’s utilities last November, and the groups say that it does not go far enough. AEEI has stated clearly that it does not meet the New York Public Service Commission’s (NYPSC) guidance and should be re-worked.

“We felt that it fell short of what the commission was asking,” AEEI VP of Industry Analysis Ryan Katofsky told pv magazine. “We felt that the utilities are making progress, but that there is still work to be done to get to where we need to be.”

The critiques of utility progress by AEEI and SolarCity covered varied technical details, but a few themes emerged: chiefly, that utilities are not moving fast or far enough to open up their data to third-party developers, and that they are underestimating the future deployment of distributed energy solutions including solar PV.

Data is an ongoing challenge. Under REV, regulators have proposed that distributed energy providers will be paid according to a formula based primarily on the locational and time-based value of electricity, and thus for placement of such assets current data and forecasts at the substation level will be critical. The NYPSC has ordered utilities to make available substation-level data and “8760” forecasts of loads at the substation level, which one utility is already providing.

And while SolarCity has celebrated the fact that utilities are promising to deliver 90% of substation data within five years, AEEI says that regulators should press utilities to move faster.

“Detailed and granular forecasts are highly useful to DER providers, and the fact that at least one New York utility already produces them suggests that it should not be difficult for sophisticated utilities such as Con Edison to follow suit,” reads AEEI’s comments.

AEEI also took issue with the granularity, or lack thereof, of utility data. The utilities had proposed a “15/15” standard of providing aggregated customer use data, where no fewer than 15 customers would be aggregated and no one customer data would represent more than 15%. Katofsky says that he feels this standard is un-necessarily conservative.

The organization additionally expresses concern that utilities are underestimating future deployment of distributed energy resources (DER), which leads to mis-allocation of resources. Katofsky notes that one solution is for utilities to consider a broader range of future deployment levels. “Having some scenarios that cover the range of possible outcomes aids in planning,” he explains.

AEEI is calling for a “revised supplemental DSIP” as soon as is practical, and no later than July 2017, including more rapid substation-level 8760 forecasts for all the utilities.