Colorado Springs Utilities upgrade their demand response software, add a peak savings program

peak shaving

Colorado Springs Utilities are going to start using AutoGrid to consolidate management of its demand response resources into a unified system. With the deployment of this software, qualifying commercial and industrial customers now have the option to participate in Springs Utilities’ Peak Savings Program. This program is designed to save energy by reducing use during critical peak-demand periods and provide savings to its customers. The Peak Savings Program is slated to achieve 40 megawatts of flexible load capacity by 2020.

With the AutoGrid Flex platform, Springs Utilities can offer cost-saving opportunities to its customers from a single, unified dashboard. Springs Utilities can also automatically and remotely shift or reduce electricity use as per the contract with its participating customers, enroll and engage customers dynamically, send personalized notifications based on customer preferences, and measure and verify energy-savings results in a statistically robust and rigorous manner.

The case for solar as resilience from economic disasters too

AutoGrid Flex is designed to optimize and extract flexible capacity from all distributed energy resources (DERs), including thermostats, water heaters, distributed generation such as solar panels, battery storage and electric vehicles. For now, Springs Utilities will use the AutoGrid Demand Response Optimization and Management System (DROMS) module of Flex to manage its commercial and industrial demand programs.

Springs Utilities also will use AutoGrid Engage, a custom-branded customer portal that plugs into Flex, to interact with customers. Engage allows customers to enroll in utility programs, view program details, provide them with real-time use data and curtailment history, and receive alerts for new demand response events.

“The Peak Savings Program will help us empower our customers with choices to control their energy use while being good stewards of the environment,” said Kenny Romero, Springs Utilities Demand Side Management and Renewable Energy Solutions Manager. “By reducing our peak demand, we are able to defer or avoid costly infrastructure upgrades and increase the reliability of our system. Both of which are benefits to all our customers.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Which utilities in the South are the most solar friendly? The Southern Environmental Law Center tells us

southeast solar

How do utilities grade our in terms of their solar friendliness? The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) launched a new website to tell us. The Rates of Solar website is an interactive site that provides simple, straight-forward information about how utilities across the Southeast United States are treating customers with rooftop solar on their homes. The website provides easy access to information on more than 400 utility solar policies across SELC’s six-state region.

Currently the Southeast has over seven gigawatts of solar installed, and another 10 gigawatts of capacity is projected for installation over the next five years. Southerners have some of the highest residential electric bills in the country and going solar is one of the few options consumers have when it comes to making their own energy choices. Rates of Solar distills complicated rooftop solar policies for hundreds of utilities across the Southeast into simple information for consumers and decision-makers.

“We believe that everyone should have the ability to harvest the sun’s energy at a reasonable price—creating stronger, cleaner, and healthier communities for all,” said Lauren Bowen, SELC staff attorney. “This website provides one of the first comprehensive views of how solar customers are treated by utilities across the Southeast.”

RELATED: Six solar industry storylines to watch from Solar Power International 2018

The website’s launch coincides with the release of SELC’s inaugural Solar Makers and Brakers list. The 2018 Solar Makers include Southern electric utilities with current programs and policies that encourage rooftop solar investments. The list also includes the region’s Solar Brakers, or utilities with rooftop policies that undermine, and in some cases, completely put the brakes on solar’s emergence as a feasible, cost-effective, and clean energy choice for customers.

rates of solar

The 2018 Solar Makers

• BARC Electric Cooperative, which serves more than 12,500 customers in the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia. The co-op credits solar customers its full retail rate for the solar power they generate that flows back onto the grid and allows residential customers to install solar systems up to 20 kilowatts in size without imposing monthly solar fees or charges. BARC also introduced the first community solar program in Virginia.

• Duke Energy, one of the largest electric power companies in the country, which continues to implement a key policy encouraging the growth of rooftop solar throughout the Carolinas. The utility offers rooftop solar customers retail net metering, meaning solar customers get a 1-to-1 credit for the solar energy they generate. Aside from North Carolina customers with solar systems larger than 100 kilowatts, Duke does not charge rooftop solar customers any monthly solar fees. Duke is one to watch though, as it may seek changes to its net metering policy in 2019.

• Brunswick EMC, located near the coast of North Carolina, just southwest of Wilmington, serves nearly 100,000 customers. This innovative utility offers a variety of clean energy opportunities to customers. The co-op gives customers full credit at its retail rate for any solar sent back onto the grid. Although the utility charges a low monthly administrative fee, there are no additional solar fees based on a customer’s system size.

The 2018 Solar Brakers

• Alabama Power, which five years ago began imposing a monthly charge on customers who install solar to power some of their energy needs. This unjust charge has put the brakes on rooftop solar by eliminating at least 50 percent of the savings homeowners would see over the lifetime of their rooftop solar system. Residents in Alabamapay the second highest residential electric bills in the country, over $1,700 on average each year. Energy efficiency investments and rooftop solar power are among the only ways families can lower their electric bills. Rather than reduce the solar charge and make solar more accessible for customer bill relief, Alabama Power recently proposed to further increase this monthly solar charge.

• The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which wields its authority as both a regulator and monopoly power provider to more than 154 local power companies. TVA mandates that all customers in the Valley who want to install rooftop solar systems at their homes and businesses and contribute to the grid must go through one of two solar programs. These programs give customers a choice between two bad alternatives, both of which seem designed to stifle the growing demand for homegrown solar in the Valley. The result of TVA’s bad policies is Tennessee falling far behind neighboring states.

• Blue Ridge Energy, which serves 75,000 customers in northwestern North Carolina. Several years ago, this utility began its efforts to undermine customers’ ability to go solar, and Blue Ridge Energy now hits solar customers with a charge of $53 every month – $29 more than customers without solar – severely limiting options for rooftop solar power in its territory.

— Solar Builder magazine

Hawaii reforms utility incentive structure to focus on ratepayer benefits

hawaii solar utilities

Hawaii is reforming the old timey model for how investor-owned electric utilities get paid. Thanks to Governor David Ige signing SB 2939, future utility revenues — in the form of performance incentives or penalties — will be linked to performance metrics. This includes incentives for Hawaiian utilities to connect more customer-sited solar and battery systems.

“This is an important step forward to align the design of our electricity system with the needs of the public,” said Robert Harris, Director of Public Policy at Sunrun. “This new law breaks the direct link between revenues and utility investments in infrastructure,meaning Hawaii’s electric utilities no longer make more money just by spending more. ”

In passing the bill, the Hawaii State Legislature voiced concern about the high cost proposed to modernize the electric grid. Because of misalignment in the way electric utilities get paid, the Legislature was concerned utilities would have “a bias toward expending utility capital on utility-owned projects that may displace more efficient or cost-effective options, such as distributed energy resources owned by customers . . .”

RELATED: Our big takeaway from SEIA’s latest Grid Modernization report: Utilities need to step up

“This bill is a big win for local consumers who will pay less for better electric service with more options for home solar and batteries, and it is a responsible step forward helping utilities transition to a sustainable business model that can survive disruption in the energy sector,” said Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee, Chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

“We need to better align the electric utility’s interests with the public’s interest,” said Anne Hoskins, Chief Policy Officer, Sunrun. “The future is going to be a more dynamic and customer-centered energy system, and we must ensure we maximize public benefit and meet broader economic and environmental goals.”

Sunrun recently published a report detailing recommendations to improve and maximize the public benefits of the United States’ energy system by placing the consumer at the center. With the passage of the Ratepayer Protection Act, Sunrun looks forward to working collaboratively with the utility and others in HI to advance a more reliable, clean and affordable energy system

“Other state Legislatures and Commissions should take notice of Hawaii’s efforts,” said Hoskins. “The time to make these changes is now, before billions of dollars are spent in rebuilding our outdated electrical networks. Rooftop solar and home batteries are allowing use to choose a system that maximizes public benefits, not utility shareholder profits. Let’s keep giving people the freedom to create a brighter future.”

— Solar Builder magazine

These utilities are adding the most solar, storage to the grid

 

The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has announced its annual Top 10 lists recognizing the U.S. utilities that added the most new solar and storage to the grid in 2017. Compiled as part of SEPA’s 11th annual Utility Market Survey, the lists include the top utilities in four categories: new solar megawatts and watts per customer, and new storage megawatts and watts per customer.

On the solar megawatts list, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) regained the No. 1 spot this year with 831.3 megawatts (MW), while Southern California Edison (SCE), last year’s No. 1, was second with 547.1 MW. The small town of Madison, Maine took the top spot on the watts per customer list, with 1,819.6 watts per customer (W/C).

Top 10 solar utilities

solar watts per customer

On the Utility Storage Top 10, SCE ranked No. 1 on new megawatts, with 56.2 MW, while the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) was No. 1 in new storage watts per customer, with 415.3 W/C. All Top 10 winners will be recognized at an awards luncheon on April 25 at SEPA’s Utility Conference in Rancho Mirage.

top 10 storage utilities

storage watts SEPA

“Despite a small dip in the general solar market, we are seeing new regional and state markets making gains across the country and across all types and sizes of utilities,” said Julia Hamm, President and CEO of SEPA. “Beyond their impressive numbers, this year’s winners embody a range of strong models for innovation and leadership that our industry will be able to build on as we move toward a clean, smart and resilient energy future.”

This year’s Utility Solar Top 10 lists are based on data provided by 423 utilities, representing around 114 million customers across the United States. The Storage Top 10 lists draw on data from 169 utilities, representing 70.7 million customers. The full lists in all categories are attached.

Three Takeaways

• While California utilities took the top two spots on the solar MW list, the rest of the Top 10 in this category show the ongoing growth of strong regional markets. Rounding out the top five are No. 3 Xcel Minnesota (522.3 MW), No 4 Duke Energy Progress in North and South Carolina (355.4 MW) and No. 5 Xcel Colorado (318.8 MW).

• Nine of the Top 10 utilities on the solar watts per customer list are small municipals or electric cooperatives, underlining the spread of solar in rural communities. Joining Madison on the list are No. 3 Anza Electric Cooperative in California (1,455.5 W/C), No. 4 Clarksville Light and Water in Arkansas (1,202.1 W/C), and No. 5 Pickwick Electric Cooperative in Tennessee (1,195.9 W/C).

• By contrast, the Top 10 lists for storage — both megawatts and watts per customer — show growth still centered in the Southwest and Hawaiian markets, which have high levels of solar. Several utilities in these regions appear on both storage lists, including — SCE, KIUC, Tucson Electric Power and San Diego Gas & Electric.

— Solar Builder magazine

PUC of Ohio seeks public comment after utilities seek higher fixed charges

Ohio utility solar

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is kicking off a series of four public hearings around the state over the next two weeks to get public input on AEP Ohio’s proposal to more than double the ‘fixed charges’ residents must pay on their electric bills each month. Fixed charges are the portion of the electric bill consumers pay regardless of what volume of electricity they use, a billing tactic that especially disadvantages those who use the least energy, families who can least afford to pay more, and households that want to support or invest in efficiency upgrades or solar.

PUCO hearings on the AEP fixed charge proposal will also be held in Marietta and Columbus, and commissioners have already been hearing on the issue in writing from concerned residents.

“If my electric bill with AEP rises, it reduces from my budget of food, medication, hospital bills, treatment costs, clothing and any other expense you’d expect to have as a mother,” wrote Michelle Peterson, an AEP customer from the Columbus area. The recent post What Ohioans are saying about fixed charge hikes proposed by electric companies provides additional quotes from letters submitted by Ohio residents to the PUCO on the AEP fixed charge proposal, as well as additional background on the issue.

RELATED: Utilities are dramatically increasing investments in distributed energy 

Around the country, utility proposals for increases in mandatory fixed charges are largely being rejected or dialed back by utilities commissions. In Ohio, AEP isn’t the only utility in the state pushing to raise mandatory fixed charges. Here’s a full roundup:

• AEP Ohio wants to more than double its fixed monthly charge – up to $18.40 a month.
• Duke Energy Ohio wants to nearly quadruple their fixed fee – up to $22.77 a month.
• Dayton Power & Light has a proposal to triple its fixed charge.
• FirstEnergy is expected to announce a fixed-fee hike proposal soon.

— Solar Builder magazine