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Policy Support Work with States


PNNL's Energy Policy and Economics Team, together with PNNL's Electricity Infrastructure Group provides technical and policy support work to states, including state Public Utility Commissions around the United States. The page features some of the projects and deliverables from that work.

Much of this work is being completed through the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC), a strategic partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the national laboratories to bring together leading experts, technologies, and resources to collaborate on the goal of modernizing the nation's grid. GMLC is a joint effort between DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Review of Water and Climate Change Analysis in Electric Utility Integrated Resource Planning

In this report, PNNL staff reviewed 30 electric utility integrated resource plans to determine best practices with respect to analyzing and reporting on potential water-based and climate change risks within the integrated resource planning process. Best practices from electric utility IRPs were identified and additional recommendations and considerations put forth. The results illustrate the likelihood that if IRPs are not addressing climate change, they are introducing several potential sources of uncertainty and error. Namely, water availability can have impacts on the availability and the timing of generation. Changing temperatures can lead to changes in loads and in the demand-side resources predicated upon the timing and magnitude of loads. Changes in the overall generation resource mix, as well as loads, can impact wholesale power markets and wholesale prices as well as grid reliability. Interregional climate change impacts exist and can impact generating resource availability and market conditions. Taken together, these represent cumulative areas of significant potential uncertainty and impact. New standard methods and tools may be needed in IRPs to properly plan and account for water and climate-based impacts to generation, loads, and markets. Report can be downloaded here.

Considerations for Grid-interactive Efficient Buildings Pilots for Washington and Hawaii

PNNL developed technical briefs for grid-interactive efficient building (GEB) pilots for Washington and Hawaii. The technical briefs support the research, design, and creation of grid-interactive efficient building (GEB) pilots. GEBs integrate energy efficiency and demand flexibility with smart technologies and communications to improve affordability, comfort, and productivity. GEBs can also support grid reliability and renewable resources integration. These guides (Washington, Hawaii) provide state policymakers, regulatory staff, utilities, and other energy stakeholders with information to support GEB pilot design. The technical briefs include a summary of the potential value of GEBs, technology requirements and communication protocols, and cost-effectiveness considerations. The briefs also layout illustrative examples, metrics for gauging pilot success, and considerations for public utility commissions and pilot designers.

Infographic on Basics of Electric Distribution Systems

PNNL staff developed this infographic showing the basic elements of electric distribution systems. The infographic provides details of what's on a utility pole and describes components of electric distribution substations. This infographic is a great primer for those who want a fundamental understanding of different components of distribution systems and how they fit together.

Presentation on Distribution Planning Regulatory Practices

This presentation on Distribution Planning Regulatory Practices was developed for the Integrated Distribution System Planning Training for the MISO/Midwest Region with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The presentation summarizes regulatory practices around the country on electric distribution system planning. Specific topics covered in the presentation include:

  • Electric planning activities and drivers
  • State objectives, requirements and filing elements
  • Selected regulatory issues:
    • Non-wires alternatives (NWAs) procurement strategies
    • Hosting capacity analysis
    • Data-related requirements
    • Stakeholder engagement
    • Getting started with an integrated distribution planning proceeding
    • Emerging issues

In the presentation resources for more information are also provided along with details on state specific approaches.

High-level overview of distribution system planning tools and methods with distributed energy resources (DERs)

Electric distribution system planning supports investment decisions and operations strategies. It is a broad subject with many facets. The increasing number of distributed energy resources (DERs) connected to the grid is changing how utilities perform their distribution planning process. The adoption of DERs is based on a combination of several factors including state policy incentives, favorable economics, consumer preferences, and the provision of reliable and resilient power, for example through the application of energy storage and microgrids. The report High-level Overview of Distribution System Planning Tools and Methods with DERs assesses the planning tools and methods available for utilities performing distribution system planning with DERs and identifies the gaps that exist, as well as future functionality that will be needed. Information in this report can assist stakeholders (including utility personnel, regulatory bodies, technology manufacturers, product and software vendors, think tanks, and research organizations) as they plan for and begin to participate in integrated distribution system planning activities, regulatory proceedings, or tool development. The report is part of a larger ongoing effort through the U.S. Department of Energy's Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium and is a companion to the report, Summary of Electric Distribution System Analysis with a Focus on DERs, which was published in April 2017.

Electric Vehicles and Distribution System Planning

PNNL presented on electric vehicles (EV) and distribution system planning at a webinar for the Southern California Public Power Authority. The presentation EVs and Distribution System Planning includes trends in distribution system planning and assessment needs for EVs in grid and distribution system planning. EV forecasts, infrastructure programs and grid needs are covered. Examples are provided of how utilities have projected EVs and dealt with planning for EV charging infrastructure.

California - Water and Wastewater Systems as Potential Distributed Resources for California

PNNL completed a feasibility assessment for the California Public Utility Commission, funded by U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office, and published the results in a report titled, "Water and Wastewater Systems as Potential Distributed Resources for California - High Level Feasibility Assessment", PNNL-29405. Water systems in California are major electricity users, and electricity costs represent a significant portion of water utilities' operating costs. Water and wastewater utilities have the capacity to shift demand in response to grid needs or price signals, and can generate power through biogas, hydropower, or onsite renewable energy systems like solar panels and wind turbines. This report points to some of the most promising opportunity areas for water and wastewater utilities to implement distributed energy resources (DERs) while also addressing challenges and practical considerations.

Idaho - Distributed Generation Cost-Benefit and Ratemaking Considerations

PNNL provided support to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) on issues associated with distributed generation rate design, cost-benefit analysis and net metering. The IPUC staff requested technical assistance to improve their understanding of the emerging, complex, and consequential issues around distributed energy resource rate design to help the staff achieve its goal of making a fair, just, and reasonable rate design recommendation with respect to Order NO. 34147 in IPUC Case No. IPC-E-17-13.

Illinois - Distributed Generation Rebate

Three white papers were developed for the Illinois Commerce Commission on issues associated with a distributed generation rebate required under the Future Energy Jobs Act, which was passed by the Illinois State Legislature in 2016. An ICC website with a summary of all whitepapers, presentations and stakeholder comments is here.

Three white papers PNNL developed:

New Mexico - Utility Rates and Standby and Ancillary Services

PNNL provided support to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NM PRC) on issues associated with distributed generation and fixed cost recovery relative to a New Mexico statute (62-13-13.2) that allows investor-owned utilities to recover costs of "standby and ancillary services", or "services that are essential to maintain electric system reliability", resulting from interconnecting distributed generation customers. A PNNL report titled "Cost Recovery for Standby and Ancillary Services for Distributed Generation" was developed for the NM PRC.

Oregon - State Activities in Distribution System Planning

PNNL worked together with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to provide support to the Oregon Public Utility Commission on distribution system planning. A report was developed that summarizes state activities in distribution system planning around the country, categorized by topic.

A webinar was also provided on the report. Presentation materials and a recording of the webinar are available here.

Hawaii - Distribution System Market Considerations with Distributed Energy Resources

PNNL developed a memo for the Hawaii Public Utility Commission (HPUC) in support of their Market Track of a distributed energy resources (DER) proceeding 2014-0192. The memo, Market Track Considerations, recommends approaches and processes, and provides examples, to guide the HPUC as they move beyond customer grid supply and customer self-supply tariff options into the market track of their DER proceeding.

Other relevant PNNL reports


Juliet Homer

Energy Policy and
Economics Group

EP&E Capabilities

EP&E Technical Teams

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