ORIGINAL REPORTING: Utility Pilot Projects Could Soothe Contentious Regulatory Proceedings
Reporter's notebook: Utility pilot projects could soothe contentious regulatory proceedings; Utility Dive reporter Herman Trabish says utility pilot projects can bridge divides between utilities and stakeholders
Herman K. Trabish, Sept. 21, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Work on pilots is advancing but there is an emerging push to get to full scale deployments.
Stakeholders in utility policy proceedings across the country are learning that sometimes you don’t know what works until you try it. That’s why the trial, pilot, and demonstration projects increasingly being ordered by electric utility regulators may be a way to resolve stakeholder debates. They offer real world experience, former Xcel executive Mike Bull, policy director for Minnesota’s Center for Energy and Environment, told me. Leaders in the electric utility industry who try to manage the “significant change” within the power system by “‘doing what they have always done’” will fail customers, fail utilities’ financial interests and fail the public interest. “The only way to adapt to significant change is through innovation,” Bull said. “Trials, pilots, and demo projects are ways to test new things and keep the cost and risk of innovation low.”
A recently-released Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) paper on best practices defines pilots as tests of “technical feasibility” and demonstrations as tests of “business models, customer adoption, and other elements.” RMI’s paper predicted that today's pilots “will test utilities’ ability to meaningfully advance a new set of solutions." Using pilots to resolve regulatory proceeding differences is becoming an emerging trend, according to Autumn Proudlove, manager of policy research for the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. At least nine new pilot program actions were brought to regulators in the first half of this year within solar policy proceedings. They are "being used mainly to test time-varying rates, residential demand charges, and community solar, and many are related to high-profile proceedings, so the impact is significant,” Proudlove said… click here for more