Thursday, November 19, 2020

PUC To Explore Ways To Enhance Reliability & Resiliency Utilizing Energy Storage As Distribution Assets For Electric Utilities

On November 19, the
Public Utility Commission initiated a proceeding geared toward exploring new ways to enhance reliability and resiliency within the Commonwealth’s electric distribution systems, including future utilization of novel resources such as energy storage as distribution assets for electric distribution companies (EDCs).

The Commission voted 4-0 to adopt a motion by Chair Gladys Brown Dutrieuille seeking public comment from utilities and other stakeholders in regards to new and unique challenges faced by EDCs – with specific input on the utilization of energy storage on the distribution grid as an option to foster reliability that will have a less significant rate impact than other more conventional utility restoration or improvement investments.

“As technology and customer needs change, utilities change distribution systems to accommodate the public convenience, safety, and system reliability. Variables in this venture that were once nascent are now ubiquitous,” said Chair Dutrieuille in her motion. “This sea change in the circumstances brings unique and new challenges to electric distribution companies.

“Variables that threaten reliability, and have always existed, are now even more prevalent - think no further than increases in major weather occurrences such as floods, hurricanes, derechos, and ice storms. This Commission continues to work diligently to ensure EDCs transition toward a future which accommodates evolving needs of customers with increased reliability and resiliency.”

The Chair’s motion directs the issuance of a Commission Secretarial Letter – to be served on EDCs, the statutory advocates and the Retail Energy Supply Association – seeking comment from all interested parties on the following questions:

-- What applications can electric storage provide as a distribution asset for utilities that would facilitate improved reliability and resiliency?

-- What are the defining characteristics of electric storage used for distribution asset planning as distinguished from generation resources? What thresholds, if any, would classify electric storage as a generation resource and therefore outside permitted distribution ratemaking and recovery?

-- Is it prudent for utilities to include electric storage in their distribution resource planning and if so, where and under what circumstances? Further, is it appropriate for utilities to include such investments in rate base?

Responses to the motion’s directed comments will be due 30 days after its publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin – with the Commission using the information to guide any potential future regulatory policies related to the utilization of energy storage within electric utility distribution resource planning.  


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