What’s the path forward for DC’s grid mod? After nearly a year of study, the city is still finding out

In considering how to modernize its electric grid, regulators in the District of Columbia turned to a collaborative process over the past year that included almost 100 stakeholders, six working groups and dozens of meetings, including two all-day marathons that brought together almost 250 participants.

What comes next in the process? Perhaps, more research.

The city had hoped the groups would reach consensus wherever possible, but the resulting 433-page document, published May 31, catalogs an array of support, opposition, conditional support and proposed changes, for the 32 recommendations. Some participants say additional analysis is required, and the Public Service Commission (PSC) says that option is on the table.

“There is a missing and essential next step,” said Larry Martin, the Sierra Club’s lead for the modernization proceeding

“The report reflects six different working groups that were not well integrated, and looked at different pieces of the grid mod puzzle,” Martin told Utility Dive. He was critical of the process and outcome, though he also said the city did the right thing when it took a working group approach.

“I don’t think the report really does a good job of characterizing what we’re really trying to accomplish,” Martin said.

Hope for consensus

“It was the Commission’s hope that the robust stakeholder engagement process would result in consensus on as many of the recommendations as possible,” the PSC said in a statement to Utility Dive. “However, this is one of the largest stakeholder engagements undertaken by the Commission, with over 100 unique participants from various backgrounds, so it is not surprising that consensus could not be reached on some of the recommendations.”

D.C. is “a very dense, urban populated area with very ambitious [renewable portfolio standard] goals that are serviced by one electric and one natural gas utility. Therefore, the way the District addresses grid modernization will differ compared to other jurisdictions.”

Office of People’s Counsel, Washington, D.C.

The stakeholder report, Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS), completes the second phase of an initiative examining possible approaches Exelon subsidiary Potomac Electric Power (Pepco) could take in its D.C. territory. The work groups and report were facilitated by the Smart Electric Power Alliance, which said its work “involved taking diverse perspectives and managing interactions among the stakeholders to formulate cohesive policy and pilot recommendations.”

The MEDSIS report includes more than two dozen recommendations on data access, non-wires alternatives (NWA), rate design, microgrids, pilot projects and customer impacts. Some have broad consensus. For instance, a recommendation that the PSC “should explore the development of a metric for evaluating carbon footprint impact of distributed energy resource (DER) projects” has broad support, though it was also followed by pages of explanations of party positions.

On the other hand, a recommendation for the PSC to establish certain NWA classifications, such as “Behind-the-meter: Private, public and utility ownership structures,” has Pepco’s support but is opposed by the D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment. Solar company Sunrun supports the recommendation — with the caveat that utilities should not own behind-the-meter assets, which it says would chill private sector investment and innovation.

“The report does represent a lot of good work, and a lot of good ideas are represented,” said Martin. But “it is not a consensus report.”

In some ways, that is good, he said. The stakeholder comments and objections for each recommendation and learning means “their perspective is carried forward.”

But it also “takes the report from 20 pages to 400 pages,” Martin said.

A ‘utility unicorn’

The broad recommendations may not raise too many eyebrows, as most states are already engaged in some form of grid modernization proceeding. But the District of Columbia is unique — a “utility unicorn,” according to the Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC), which advocates for the city’s residents.

D.C. is “a very dense, urban populated area with very ambitious [renewable portfolio standard] goals that are serviced by one electric and one natural gas utility. Therefore, the way the District addresses grid modernization will differ compared to other jurisdictions,” OPC said.

The city council last year passed a 100% renewable portfolio standard mandate by 2032.

The report calls for the PSC to direct Pepco to move forward with a stakeholder-informed distribution system planning and NWA consideration process, “with the understanding that the process will be iterative and evolving.”

“We don’t think it’s necessary to move forward with additional studies.”

Melissa Lavinson

Senior vice president of governmental and external affairs, Pepco Holdings

“There are definitely opportunities for non-wires in the District,” Melissa Lavinson, senior vice president of governmental and external affairs for Pepco Holdings, told Utility Dive. “They are a really important solution that can help us meet the demand of the District in a way that doesn’t require investments where we traditionally have made them.”

“We hope focus on areas where we have a lot of consensus,” Lavinson said.

Areas of disagreement

That’s not to say the utility agrees with everything, but Lavinson said of the more-than-two dozen recommendations in the report, “90% we are ready to go on.”

In total, Pepco opposes three of the report’s recommendations, including for the D.C. PSC to initiate a Value of DER and Value of Grid Study, to address uncertainty in how the location of distributed resources impacts their value. Pepco maintains that a competitive market for non-wires alternatives could address the issue.

“We don’t think it’s necessary to move forward with additional studies,” Lavinson said.

The utility also has issues with recommendations that it says could relax reliability standards for microgrids.

The report recommends the PSC “define and establish a new regulated entity” of microgrid operator, to include any entity that operates a microgrid serving multiple customers. Pepco officials balk at this idea, saying that such an entity would be essentially the same as an electric distribution company.

“We think that falls into the realm of a utility,” said Lavinson.

Conflicting views on report, process

Pepco is excited for regulators to act on the report, Lavinson said. She stressed that there was far more agreement than not and called the MEDSIS strategy “a great process.”

The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, agreed and called the process “expansive.”

“As the issues faced by both electric companies and commissions get more complex, the success of the MEDSIS process — and broad commission-driven grid modernization initiatives like it across the country — highlights the importance of stakeholder engagement, as well as stakeholder education,” EEI Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs Adam Benshoff said in a statement to Utility Dive.

​Not everyone was so enthusiastic, however.

The OPC said the stakeholder process “was effective for the most part.”

“As any stakeholder process goes, there are always lessons learned in hindsight and room for improvement,” OPC said, noting there were “many opinions and recommendations” throughout the dozens of working group meetings.

The Sierra Club’s Martin said the sheer volume of meetings worked as “something of a filter for public participation,” and created a “bias towards people who were institutionally-affiliated.”

“Without clear articulation of what the grid should do, it is difficult to evaluate the suitability of the MEDSIS recommendations.”

Larry Martin

MEDSIS Lead, Sierra Club

Martin also lamented what he sees as a lack of specificity in the report describing the desired outcomes, in terms of how the grid should operate.

The report provides principles of grid modernization, but “they do not actually characterize how the grid should perform in terms of capacity for DER penetration, nor incorporation of demand-side management and DER system management,” he told Utility Dive in an email. “Without clear articulation of what the grid should do, it is difficult to evaluate the suitability of the MEDSIS recommendations. ”

Next steps

What happens next is up to the PSC. The commission will host a town hall to take public comment on June 13, and must issue an order on the report’s findings by the end of July.

“As the Commission does with all proposals that come before it, we are reviewing the recommendations to determine if they should be adopted, modified or rejected,” a spokerson told Utility Dive. “Some of the recommendations may require additional information gathering and stakeholder engagement.”

That could include a comment period or the establishment of a new working group “to flesh out the details needed to support the approval or modification of the recommendation,” the PSC said.

Pepco officials say they expect the commission to adopt some of the recommendations, issue directives, and possibly order some working groups. Ultimately, the MEDSIS reports is the result of “an incredibly successful process,” company officials said.

“We think a lot of positive will come out of this, and we’re really looking forward to the commission ruling,” Lavinson said. “There is no doubt the District will be a leader on grid modernization.”

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MEDSIS Town Hall Thursday, June 13, 2019, starting at 6 p.m.

Author:  Kris Randolph  PSC Consumer Outreach Specialist         Published: June 11, 2019

The Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (Commission) invites all ANC Commissioners, residents and solar business owner of the District to participate in our upcoming Town Hall Meeting to be held on Thursday, June 13th.  The Commission will hold a Town Hall Meeting regarding the Final Report and recommendations from the MEDSIS (Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability) Stakeholder Working Groups (Formal Case No 1130).

Place:  Public Service Commission of District of Columbia

1325 G Street N.W. Suite 800- Hearing Room Washington, D.C. 20005.

Those wishing to provide oral comments should submit their name and corresponding organization, if applicable, via email with “MEDSIS – June 13th Town Hall” in the subject line, to the Office of the   Commission   Secretary   (psc-commissionsecretary@dc.gov) For more details click here.

The MEDSIS Report provides recommendations on how the District should move forward with building an improved, more sustainable, reliable, and better energy delivery system in the District of Columbia.  The Commission is continuing its efforts to build upon the MEDSIS  stakeholder-driven process by conducting this Town Hall Meeting. We look forward to your input in your role as an  Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and from the community-at large.

Mayor Bowser Signs Historic Clean Energy Bill, Calling for 100% Renewable Electricity by 2032

Friday, January 18, 2019

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Bowser signed the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018, codifying the District as the nation’s preeminent leader in clean energy and climate action by setting a mandate of 100% renewable electricity by the year 2032.

This historic piece of legislation will bolster Mayor Bowser’s Clean Energy DC plan, which includes 57 action items for how the District will reach this ambitious target. Additionally, the bill provides a roadmap to achieving our goals including, but not limited to:

  • Mandating 100 percent of the electricity sold in the District come from renewable sources.
  • Doubling the required amount of solar energy deployed in the District.
  • Making significant improvements to the energy efficiency of existing buildings in the District.
  • Providing energy bill assistance to support low- and moderate-income residents.
  • Requiring all public transportation and privately owned fleet vehicles to become emissions-free by the year 2045.
  • Funding the DC Green Bank to attract private investment in clean energy projects.

“By signing the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 into law, we solidify Washington, DC’s place as the national leader in the fight against climate change and proudly communicate to the world that ‘we are still in,’” said Mayor Bowser. “If we are going to make progress on addressing climate change and global warming in our country, it’s going to be cities and states leading the way. With this groundbreaking clean energy law, we have created a model for jurisdictions across the nation to follow.”

The bill was signed into law at the newly renovated headquarters of the American Geophysical Union, the first net-zero renovation of a building in the District which will serve as a national model of sustainability and green building design. Additionally, the bill will lead to a boost in clean energy investment in the District with the mandated increases in funding mechanisms such as the Renewable Energy Trust Fund (RETF) and Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP).

“Make no mistake about it, this is by far the most aggressive and impactful clean energy goal passed by any state to-date” said Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) Director Tommy Wells. “As great as the commitments are from states leading the fight against climate change, our goal as the nation’s capital is to reach 100% renewable electricity despite Federal inaction in our own backyard.”

Storage system costs could rise 15% with escalation in US-China trade dispute: Report

Author: Published: June 11, 2019 Dive Brief

Dive Brief:

  • If the Trump administration follows through on its threats and raises tariffs on Chinese imports of lithium-ion batteries and inverters to 25%, the installed price for a four-hour duration battery would increase by about 15%, according to an analysis by S&P Global Platts Analytics.
  • The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) included lithium-ion batteries and static converters, which are both used in storage systems, on its May 13 list of items earmarked for a tariff increase.
  • According to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), the U.S. imported more than $1 billion worth of lithium-ion batteries from China in 2017.

Dive Insight:

The stalled trade negotiations between the United States and China could put a strain on America’s burgeoning energy storage market. President Donald Trump has used the threat of additional tariffs to get Beijing to the negotiating table. But the tactic has yet to produce the desired results.

On May 10, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced the administration’s decision to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods — including lithium-ion batteries and inverters — from 10% to 25%. While the latest tariff hike is not expected to stop the growth of the U.S. energy storage market, it’s expected to notably increase installation costs.

“The impact of the tariff would vary project by project, but we estimate a 25% tariff on both lithium-ion batteries and inverters could increase the installed prices for a four-hour duration battery by about 15%,” Felix Maire, clean energy and storage senior analyst at S&P Global Platts Analytics, said in a June 6 release.

It’s a significant price increase considering that lithium-ion batteries account for 40% to 60% of the total installed cost of a standalone battery storage system in the U.S., Maire added.

A recent USTR notice delayed the start date of the 25% tariff from June 1 to June 15, giving U.S. importers a further two weeks to get their goods into the country under the current tariff level of 10%. After the latest round of trade negations between the world’s two largest economies broke down in late May, Trump announced that tariffs on China could be raised by another $300 billion if necessary.​

China, South Korea and Japan are the biggest exporters of lithium-ion batteries to the U.S., according to figures from the USITC. Total global lithium cell manufacturing is expected to reach 316 GWh in 2019, S&P Global Platts reported, citing Yayoi Sekine, energy storage analyst at BloombergNEF. The majority of that manufacturing capacity, 73%, is located in China, followed by the U.S. (12%), South Korea (7%) and Europe (4%).

In 2017, the U.S. imported $987 million worth of lithium-ion batteries from China, according to the USITC. The figure excludes batteries used in electric cars, which amounted to $54 million in the same year. South Korea and Japan followed with $519 million and $440 million, respectively.

During Q1 of this year, the U.S. energy storage market set a growth record, deploying 148.8 MW, a 232% increase from Q1 2018, and a 6% jump from Q4 2018, according to the latest Wood Mackenzie U.S. Energy Storage Monitor.

GE: Hydrogen trumps CCS in preserving gas turbines in a carbon-free grid

Author: Published: June 11, 2019 Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • General Electric sees hydrogen as the key to natural gas’ participation in a 100% carbon-free electric grid, Brian Gutknecht, chief marketing officer of GE Power said on a panel Monday at the 2019 Edison Electric Institute conference,
  • “The gas turbines that we utilize today to burn normal natural gas are capable of, and have demonstrated, burning higher and higher percentages of hydrogen mixed in with natural gas,” Gutknecht told Utility Dive after the panel. “As you do that, the carbon impact, it becomes less and less.”
  • Carbon capture and sequestration has been central to the discussion over whether or how to include fossil fuel plants in a carbon-free future, but Gutknecht said GE is more focused on clean, efficient extraction and use of the resource than carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies, which remain too expensive.

Dive Insight:

GE was accused of “badly” misjudging the clean energy transition by underestimating how quickly the transition to clean energy would come, costing investors an “almost unprecedented” $193 billion from 2015 to 2018 by investing aggressively in natural gas, according to a report released last week.

But what if the company’s gas turbines, which it’s invested so much in, could burn something other than gas that would contribute to the clean energy future?

And although “the economics of producing affordable hydrogen” are still not there, it’s more of a focus for the company than CCS, according toGutknecht.

“At this point, it’s not economically viable to use carbon capture and sequestration at scale,” he said. “But we do believe it could be, whether through a carbon tax or just recognizing that the cost of doing nothing on decarbonization comes with a very high price tag as well.”

Hydrogen has been a tricky fuel for the energy sector to pin down. While the electricity it generates is carbon-free, the amount of power needed to split hydrogen from water often exceeds the amount of power it actually generates. But extraction technologies may be improving. New Brunswick Power and Hydrogen Energy company Joi Scientific said in March it is on the way to building the first hydrogen-powered grid in the world.

GE says its gas turbine technology, which has faced hurdles over the past year, may be key to hydrogen’s future as it scales to market, and could exclusively run on hydrogen as the technologies and economics surrounding the resource mature.

“The same technologies that we offer in our gas turbines today could reach a point where they could burn 100% hydrogen in the future,” said Gutknecht. “So at a point … where the economics of producing affordable hydrogen are compelling, then the assets that our customers are buying today … could be dual-purposed to basically provide zero carbon power.”

But some on the panel said waiting for that economic maturity may be too late and there are more immediately viable options for transitioning to a cleaner grid.

“2050 may seem far away, but it’s really not,” said Environmental Defense Fund Senior Vice President​ Mark Brownstein, adding that he hopes to be on the beach by then, but “hopefully that beach isn’t in Ohio.”

Natural gas is viewed by many as a cleaner baseload alternative to coal, as more intermittent renewable resources continue to integrate onto the grid. But as battery storage technologies mature, they are becoming a stronger, zero emission competitor against natural gas, noted Brownstein.

But the problem with battery storage, noted Gutknecht, is that development has been focused on shorter duration, unlike natural gas, which can handle longer duration intermittencies.

But GE has been working to expand into the renewable energy and storage sectors as well: In January, the company announced it would restructure its business to merge its renewable energy assets, including solar, storage, wind and hydro. And GE officials now says its investment in natural gas does not take away from its focus on renewable energy.

“I think [gas and storage are] really complementary,” Robert Morgan, CEO of Energy Storage at GE Renewable Energy told Utility Dive after a separate panel on storage. “We’re hybridizing batteries with wind, with solar, with gas turbines. … So the system actually is huge. And so there’s a lot of room for growth and we’re all about making that system operate more efficiently … So I don’t think it’s an ‘either, or,’ it’s definitely a ‘both, and.'”

NextEra loses bankruptcy court jurisdiction fight with PG&E over renewables contracts

Author:  Published: June 11, 2019 Dive Brief

Dive Brief:

  • A bankruptcy judge ruled the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission does not have “concurrent jurisdiction” over Pacific Gas & Electric’s power contracts, possibly clearing the way for the utility to have above-market power purchase agreements (PPAs) discharged in its Chapter 11 proceeding.
  • Judge Dennis Montali on June 7 said FERC “has chosen to interfere with bankruptcy courts’ decisions,” and called out the commission for “undermining the function of the bankruptcy court.”
  • NextEra Energy, which has subsidiaries selling renewable power to PG&E, asked FERC​ in January to stop the utility from amending or rejecting PPAs in bankruptcy court. PG&E responded by asking the court to block the commission from issuing rulings that would impact rejection of the contracts.

Dive Insight:

PG&E still has not made a decision regarding PPAs and whether it will seek to have them discharged, but also says it appreciates stakeholder concerns regarding the impact its bankruptcy filing could have on California’s clean energy progress.

“As we assess our contracts, the input provided by the bankruptcy court, policy makers, regulators and relevant stakeholders will be critical to helping form a solution that provides for the reliable and safe delivery of natural gas and electric service for the long-term in an environment that continues to be challenged by climate change,” the company said in a statement to Utility Dive.

Officials at NextEra Energy had no comment.

In a May 1 order, FERC affirmed its jurisdiction over contracts by saying “wholesale power contracts are not simple run-of-the-mill contracts between two private parties, rather, these contracts, while privately negotiated, implicate the public’s interest in the orderly production of plentiful supplies of electricity at just and reasonable rates.”

The commission also said it “neither presumes to sit in judgment of rejection motions nor seeks to arrogate the role of adjudicating bankruptcy proceedings​.”

Montali was blunt in his June 7 order, and pointed to both of those statements.

“FERC’s decision was not only unauthorized, but has and continues to have the effect of undermining the function of the bankruptcy court in its role of ensuring that the goals and purposes of bankruptcy law and policy are properly served and properly executed,” he wrote. “Despite FERC’s lip service to what it describes as ‘concurrent jurisdiction’ to carry out differing and perhaps competing policies, the effect of its decision guts and renders meaningless the bankruptcy court’s responsibilities in this area of the law.”

“The court declares FERC’s decision announcing its concurrent jurisdiction unenforceable in bankruptcy and of no force and effect on the parties before it,” Montali concluded. “If necessary in the future it will enjoin FERC from perpetuating its attempt to exercise power it wholly lacks.”

FERC does not comment on pending litigation.

Securitization fever: Renewables advocates seize Wall Street’s innovative way to end coal

New laws passed across the country allow customer-backed bonds to pay off stranded coal assets in favor of renewables, but utilities are hesitant.

With the cost of building new renewables now lower than the costof operating most existing coal plants, the major remaining obstacle to this energy transition is resolving the financial burden of stranded coal assets.

State legislation — like bills recently passed in Montana, Colorado and New Mexico — can give coal-owning utilities the option to issue bonds secured bythe certainty of customers paying their bills. This financial strategy, called securitization, has attracted over $50 billion from investors to resolve other utility obligations, and can be used to pay off stranded coal assets.

Bloomberg to fund ‘America’s Pledge’ report on US climate progress

Author: Published: May 28, 2019  Dive Brief

Mike Bloomberg Delivers 2019 Commencement Address at University of Maryland – Mike Bloomberg

On May 24, 2019, Michael R. Bloomberg served as Commencement Speaker at the University Maryland commencement ceremony. These are his remarks as delivered. “There’s something from this campus that

 To meet the challenges of our time, we must be willing to take risks in defiance of long odds. My message for @UofMaryland’s Class of 2019 (and all of us): We will all encounter points of failure, but to change the world, you must refuse to give up. https://www.mikebloomberg.com/news/mike-bloomberg-delivers-2019-commencement-address-university-maryland/ 

Dive Brief:

  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he will grant $2.3 million to the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Center for Global Sustainability and the Rocky Mountain Institute to study U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The report will be submitted to the United Nations at a December meeting in Santiago, Chile in place of the submission that would have come from the U.S. State Department.
  • The grant, which Bloomberg formally announced in a commencement speech at UMD, is the third he has funded through the America’s Pledge initiative. That initiative seeks to quantify the actions of American states, cities and businesses are taking to fight climate change.
  • “Bottom-up climate leadership from states, cities, businesses, and universities is where the action is today,” Robert Orr, Dean of the UMD School of Public Policy, said in a statement. “Fusing strong data and analytics with political and economic leadership from below has proven to be a powerful and necessary tool to address the climate crisis we face

Dive Insight:

Since the Trump administration announced its intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, cities and states have taken the lead on climate action. By setting their own clean energy and emissions reduction goals, non-national actors say that they can uphold the country’s commitment to the climate pact, which was to cut emissions by 26-28% of 2005 levels by 2025. Many have banded together in groups like the “We Are Still In” coalition.

America’s Pledge, founded by Bloomberg and former California Gov. Jerry Brown, seeks to aggregate and quantify those pledges, and help advance climate research. According to America’s Pledge, the more than 3,000 sub-national partners it is tracking represent more than half of the U.S. population and would collectively be the third-largest economy in the world. A 2018 report found that, with those partners, the U.S. was almost halfway to meeting its Paris commitment, and that current policies would deliver a 17% emissions reduction of 2005 levels by 2025, even with population growth.

“Broader engagement” from states and cities, could put the country “within striking distance” of the Paris pledge, the report found.

Bloomberg, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate Action, has also directed funding to cities through Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge; a recent report from the group found that the 25 cities involved would cut 40 million metric tons of carbon emissions by 2025.




GM, Bechtel plan thousands of fast charging stations across US

Author: Published: May 29, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • General Motors (GM) and Bechtel will partner to install thousands of electric vehicle fast charging stations across the United States, with construction on the first installations expected to begin later this year, the automaker confirmed to Utility Dive.
  • First reported by CNN on Tuesday, GM officials say details on the partnership are sparse because the arrangement remains in a Memorandum of Understanding phase. The stations are expected to be located in dense urban environments rather than along major transportation corridors, according to CNN.
  • GM and Bechtel are planning to form a separate company to develop the charging network, and will seek investment from other entities. The plan could be a boon to GM, which expects to roll out 20 EV models by 2023.

Dive Insight:

GM officials say the partnership aims to address customer concerns when considering the purchase of an electric vehicle.

“This collaboration and future build-out will help alleviate issues with customers’ range anxiety by leveraging GM and Bechtel’s scale, flexibility and proprietary data to provide chargers in locations convenient to EV customers,” the automaker told Utility Dive in a statement.

Bechtel will provide permitting and engineering expertise to the partnership, while GM will tap data from its OnStar system to determine where new fast charging stations should be installed.

The partnership joins a number of other investments in fast charger network development.

Greenlots has been selected by Electrify America to support a $2 billion investment in charging infrastructure across the United States, funded by the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement. That network will include hundreds of stations in major cities across the country. Tesla is also developing its global Supercharger network.

Public charging infrastructure is widely considered a necessary stop in the long-term adoption of electrified transportation. Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects EVs will represent 28% of global light-duty vehicle sales sometime shortly after 2025.

While there are a little more than 1 million emissions-free vehicles on U.S. roads today, the Edison Electric Institute projects 7 million zero-emission vehicles on U.S. roads by 2025.

PJM CEO Ott to retire amid RTO shake-up

Author: Published: May 29, 2019 Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • PJM Interconnection announced on Tuesday that Andy Ott, who has served the grid operator for 22 years, will retire as CEO and president on June 30.
  • PJM also announced five executive appointments effective July 3, focusing on system reliability, competitive wholesale electricity markets and infrastructure planning. Ott decided on the promotions about a month ago and had received approval from the grid operator’s Board of Managers, according to PJM spokesperson Susan Buehler.
  • Board Member Susan Riley was tapped to serve as interim CEO beginning July 1. Ott agreed to serve as a board adviser through the end of the year as a special committee searches for a new CEO.

Dive Insight:

Ott is leaving the nation’s largest wholesale electricity market at a time of upheaval and unprecedented change in its operations.

He has led a number of initiatives at the regional transmission operator (RTO), from capacity market reform to reserve pricing reform in PJM’s energy market.

PJM’s fuel mix is almost unrecognizable now from when Ott started in 1996. The region also boasts the largest penetration of demand response resources in the world and an increasingly reliable fleet that is “performing at a reduced forced outage rate” as older generators are taken offline and retire, Ott said earlier this year.

Ott “became retirement eligible a year ago and decided this was the right time for him,” Buehler told Utility Dive via email.

Ott’s exit takes place ahead of a number of deadlines for the RTO, including its August capacity market auction. Ott announced in April that the auctionwill not be delayed, even though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has not approved new capacity market rules for PJM.

FERC invalidated PJM’s existing market rules in 2018, which led the grid operator to its current impasse with federal regulators.

PJM proposed last October to remove resource subsidies from the capacity market and set a strict price floor, or Minimum Offer Price Rule, for unsubsidized resources. Under the proposal, generators with subsidies would operate outside the market.

PJM deals with a large mix of stakeholders that have continuously butted heads over the need for subsidies and the grid operator’s various responses to FERC orders, including the energy storage-related Order 841. For 841 compliance, Ott said earlier this month that the RTO will not be lowering its 10-hour discharge requirement, which clean energy advocates have deemed prohibitive of storage resource participation within PJM’s capacity market.

Ott’s retirement is the second big executive change this year at the RTO, following the exit of CFO Suzanne Daugherty in the wake of criticisms about the grid operator’s response to GreenHat Energy’s default on financial transmission rights.

PJM released an independent review of the incident in March, concluding the RTO’s personnel were “naive” about the trading company’s assurances of future revenue and credit-worth. Ott laid out a plan to better address credit risks, including process improvements using outside assessments, the establishment of a Chief Risk Officer and market rule revisions.

C-suite changes

While the grid operator’s Board of Managers searches for a new CEO, Riley will take the reins as some final changes made by Ott come into effect.

Ott had proposed five promotions which “just happened to be announced yesterday,” according to Buehler.

“Each of these promotions helps ensure we continue to be an electric industry leader in areas that are critical for our members, stakeholders and the 65 million people in the region served by PJM,” Ott said in a statement.

VP of Operations, Michael Bryson, was appointed senior VP of Operations.

Frederick “Stu” Bresler III, who now serves as senior VP of Operations and Markets, was named senior VP of Markets and Planning.

Steven Herling, the current VP of System Planning, will become an executive consultant focused on strategic system planning projects.

Two program directors were also promoted to PJM’s executive team. Kenneth Seiler, formerly executive director of System Planning, will remain in the division as VP of Planning, and Adam Keech, formerly executive director of Market Operations, will oversee all wholesale markets operated by PJM as VP of Markets. Both positions report to Bresler.

Tips for your summer EV road trip, part 2

Author: John U’Ren  Published: May 23, 2019 Plug In America

With summer around the corner, EV drivers across America will soon be taking to the roads in droves to head out on warm weather road trips. Taking a road trip in an electric car can be a much superior experience to a gas car—if you know what steps to take. Whether it’s a day trip out to a scenic location or a full on cross-country trek, here are a few tips and tricks for your EV road trip.

Control your climate control

Let’s start by pointing out that nobody wants to drive hundreds of miles uncomfortably, but with electric cars there are ways to minimize your cabin energy usage while maintaining your level of comfort. If you’re driving in a cold climate, try to use seat heaters and steering wheel heaters, if you have them, rather than the cabin heater. Heating the whole cabin requires more energy to run the heat pump, which could cause some range loss. If you’re hitting the road in a hotter climate, first try using only the fan. If that won’t keep you cool enough, most EVs have an “eco” climate mode that will run the air conditioner at a lower power setting, saving a bit of energy while keeping the cabin cool. Now, if you’re driving through the Nevada desert and really need the full power of modern air conditioning, definitely do use it! Note that it is more efficient to use your air conditioner than it is to roll down the windows. Driving with the windows down creates more drag on the vehicle and reduces range. It’s best to stay as aerodynamic as possible.

Plan your route

Taking a road trip in an EV is a bit like flying an airplane—it requires a little planning to be successful. When planning your charging route, make sure you have backup plans in case chargers are full of cars or out of order. Check out your route on PlugShare.com first and see where the available chargers are. Make sure that the fast chargers will work with your EV—if you have a Chevy Bolt, don’t count on using a CHAdeMO fast charger to keep you in the game; likewise, Nissan LEAF drivers won’t be able to use CCS fast chargers. Try to pick charging stations that aren’t too far off your route of march, and look to use fast chargers as much as possible; don’t worry, they won’t hurt your battery if you’re just using it on a road trip. Also, be sure to make sure the charging stations are in working order; PlugShare makes this easy to do with its “check in” function that allows drivers to report when charging stations are working or out of order. For the most part, EV charging stations are very reliable and robust pieces of equipment, and major charging companies regularly service downed chargers, quickly returning them to operational status. Locations with more charging stations provide better redundancy and can mitigate the chances of being stuck without a working charger.

Overnight charging

If your road trip is a multi-day adventure and you plan to stay overnight at hotels/motels, look for accommodations with EV charging, using resources like PlugShare or ChargeHotels, or call your hotel and see if they offer overnight charging to guests. If the hotel has Level 2 240-volt chargers or spaces with 120-volt plugs nearby, ask if you can reserve the spaces for the night. Even if they don’t have designed Level 2 charging stations, a simple 120-volt outlet is good enough to get a useful charge in 8-12 hours. If they don’t have either, kindly suggest that they offer it as a service to EV guests; if you knew that a certain hotel or motel offered charging, wouldn’t you be more likely to stay there? For long road trips, charging overnight can greatly speed up your rate of travel, especially so if you can use a Level 2 charger and have a long-range all-electric.

Have a backup

While today’s electric cars have quite a long range and charging stations are proliferating across the country, it’s always wise to plan for a hiccup. All electric cars come standard with a portable 120-volt Level 1 charger that allows the vehicle to recharge from a standard wall outlet. Be sure to bring this charger along on your trip as a backup plan. If you’re driving an all-electric, this could be a real lifesaver if you can’t find a working charger nearby. For an additional peace of mind, there are portable 240-volt Level 2 chargers available, but remember, you need a 240-volt outlet to utilize these chargers.

That’s all for now! Go forth and do great things, EV drivers, and remember, road trippin’ in an EV is the American way.