New England energy leaders trying to modernize their grid (we start slow clap)

solar utility grid meeting

Picture these seats filled with important energy folks.

The Advanced Energy Economy reports that top energy leaders from the six New England states met with utility and advanced energy industry leaders in a session to explore common efforts to modernize the electric power grid and design electric rates to maximize the benefits of new, distributed energy technologies like solar, battery storage, and microgrids for reliability and customer choice.

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, Rhode Island Commissioner of Energy Resources Marion Gold and Deputy Commissioner Katie Scharf Dykes of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection kicked off the New England 21st Century Electricity System Executive Forum, a convening of 50 state officials, utility leaders and executives of advanced energy companies.

“We serve the people of different states, but we are all pursuing a similar vision of a cleaner, more reliable, more affordable electricity system that offers customers new choices and greater value, so it makes sense for us to work together to explore together the issues we face in common,” said Secretary Beaton. “Through our participation in this forum, the Baker-Polito Administration continues its commitment to ensuring affordability and reliability for Massachusetts’ ratepayers, while strengthening the state’s growing clean energy economy and supporting new innovative technologies.”

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The focus of the New England 21st Century Electricity System Executive Forum was on developing a common vision for the region’s electric power system that embraces clean, innovative technologies; increases customer control over energy options; improves system reliability, and reduces customer costs for the future.

Topics discussed during the forum included new utility business models, regulatory concepts, financing structures, technology innovation, rate designs, and partnerships that can make this vision a reality. Finally, by bringing together government and industry leaders, the forum sought to develop a means for advancing the ideas and concepts discussed into concrete action.

“We must work collaboratively to modernize the power grid and develop a secure, clean, and affordable energy system,” said Commissioner Gold. “While we serve different jurisdictions, we all continue to experience high and volatile energy prices that hinder economic development and we manage energy systems largely dependent on fossil fuels. Today’s discussion is a step in the right direction. Collaboration is key to reducing energy costs for families and businesses while driving down carbon emissions.”

The New England states share commitments to energy efficiency, clean energy and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Electric distribution utilities in the region are participating in a large-scale competitive solicitation for clean energy and transmission overseen by regulators, which is expected to deliver a large supply of energy from wind and/or hydropower sources to Southern New England. Although the states each exercise substantial regulatory authority over the electric distribution utilities operating within their jurisdiction, they are all part of the region-wide power grid, the wholesale electricity market of which is managed by Independent System Operator New England (ISO New England). All the New England states are members of the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has an ongoing proceeding on grid modernization, under which the state’s electric utilities will make significant investments in advanced metering and develop new, time-varying rate designs. In Rhode Island, the public utility commission has begun a comprehensive proceeding on rate design. Connecticut has made significant efforts to spur development of distributed energy resources, ranging from solar power to microgrids, which provide protection against power outages.

The New England 21st Century Electricity System Executive Forum was sponsored by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute (AEE Institute), the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission and hosted by the Mintz Levin law firm. The initiative’s collaborative, stakeholder-driven process for supporting utility business model and regulatory reform has been utilized most prominently in the Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding before the New York Public Service Commission.


— Solar Builder magazine







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