A Practical Way Forward for the US Electrical System

Here on The Power Line, I have tried to provide my readers with concrete examples of how we can build a better electrical system for our country. I have also tried to document how entrenched power monopolies and holding companies are fighting back against the rising tide of innovation and reliability.

Here is a great article that pulls all those threads together.

The authors of the article, at Greentechgrid, call their plan America’s Power Plan. And here it is:

To capture the benefits of distributed generation in ways that can benefit all consumers and that will enhance the value of the interconnected grid, America’s Power Plan lays out a set of recommendations that includes the following elements.

Net Energy Metering: Energy consumers need a simple, certain and transparent method for pricing the power that they supply to the grid. Net metering has served this purpose well and should be continued so that the customers and suppliers of distributed generation systems know that this foundational policy will be available in the long run. Decision-makers can address cost-shifting concerns over net metering through the same type of cost-effectiveness analyses that have been used for many years to assess other demand-side resources such as energy efficiency and demand response.

Shared Renewables: Many energy customers do not have a rooftop suitable for the installation of solar panels or a yard large enough to site a wind turbine. Shared renewables programs can address this problem through the development of larger, but still distributed renewable generation projects connected to the distribution system at the wholesale level, with the power output distributed to subscribers or community members. Shared renewables programs should be developed so that all energy consumers are able to participate in clean energy markets.

Wholesale DG: Distributed generation doesn’t have to be on the customer’s side of the meter, nor does the output need to serve specific customers. It can also be deployed as small power plants, providing wholesale power to utilities. Wholesale DG can help utilities to meet their state’s renewable portfolio standard goals, to hedge against the risks of developing large-scale generation and transmission projects, and to respond quickly to load growth. A variety of administrative or market-based pricing mechanisms can be used to support wholesale DG, with long-term contracts essential in order to allow these capital-intensive projects to be financed.

Interconnection Standards and Local Permitting: Too much red tape can present a major barrier to distributed generation, raising “soft costs” like permitting and customer acquisition. Regulators and local agencies should adopt best-practice interconnection standards and improvements in the permitting process for DG as ways to remove these barriers to DG deployment while still ensuring safe and reliable installations.

Integrated Distribution Planning: DG can reduce transmission and distribution costs, but only if utilities integrate DG into their planning for delivery networks. IDP is a coordinated, forward-looking approach under which utilities plan in advance to upgrade or reconfigure certain circuits that are expected to have DG added in the near future, and make the associated costs known to the market with far more transparency than is common today.

Distributed generation can create important benefits for consumers, the grid, the economy, and the environment. And the pace of change will only accelerate, as companies and entrepreneurs innovate. With smart policies, we can prepare for change rather than fight against it, and capture the benefits of advanced technologies while avoiding the disruptive side effects that too often bedevil innovation.

One thought on “A Practical Way Forward for the US Electrical System

  1. I like the above plan and am ready to work for it’s implementation.

    Two encouraging steps in the right direction: 1. New thin film solar array planned in West Virginia is being developed by a past coal operator ( http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201309250058 ) 2. Shared Renewables legislation is happening in Washington, DC with the Community Renewables Energy Act of 2013 (B20-0057) which if passed would allow virtual net metering. Virtual net-metering is a structure in which an individual can purchase a share of a renewable energy installation and subsequently receive credit for the energy that the system produces, in accordance with the size of the share purchased.( http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2013/07/community-renewables-energy-act-voted-to-d-c-council-see-more-at-httpwww-solsystemscompany-comblog20130722community-renewables-energy-act-voted-to-d-c-councilsthash-4lzmsxgd-dpuf )

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