- The Washington, D.C., Public Service Commission on Jan. 24 issued an order sketching out how Exelon subsidiary Potomac Electric Power (Pepco) will modernize and decarbonize the city's electric grid, including accelerating the process for implementing non-wires alternatives (NWA) to cover projects starting in 2023.
- Regulators also established a rate design working group, authorized creation of a time of use (TOU) rate and launched a microgrid proceeding.
- The district is aiming to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and deliver 50% renewable energy by 2032. Clean energy advocates and one commissioner, however, warn the 46-page order is not sufficiently specific or cohesive to chart a path to those goals.
PSC Commissioner Richard Beverly filed comments alongside the commission's order, saying he is happy a consensus was reached on moving the District's grid modernization efforts ahead — but "as is the case with so many things, the devil is in the details."
Meeting the District's environmental and energy goals, including the growth of distributed energy resources (DERs), will require more research than has been completed, Beverly noted.
"This order ... falls short of providing a detailed, data-driven distribution and integrated resource planning process that will enable the District to meet its targeted energy and climate goals," Beverly wrote. Specifically, the commissioner expressed concern that the order "does not specify the type of studies that should be undertaken to develop a distribution and integrated resource planning process that will enable the District to meet its targeted energy and climate goals."
According to Beverly, required studies include: a Baseline Distribution System Assessment; Hosting Capacity Analysis; Locational Net Benefit Analysis of DER Integration; and a development of a Benefit Cost Methodology.
Beverly also called for a "more focused, transparent planning process beyond the current undertakings."
Larry Martin, the Sierra Club's lead for the modernization proceeding and a part of the stakeholder process, largely agreed with those ideas.
"There wasn't ever a clearly-articulated vision of what the PSC was trying to achieve," Martin told Utility Dive. "It often felt like we were feeling around in the dark. There were a lot of good ideas but they were kind of piecemeal — they aren't really assembled in a way that leads to a well-defined outcomes."
But the order does take some steps forward.
The PSC directed Pepco to prepare a pilot residential TOU rate proposal within 45 days and, to speed development, specified the utility should assume participants are limited to Standard Offer Service customers without electric vehicles or behind-the-meter generation.
And the commission backed accelerated implementation of a Distribution System Planning (DSP) and NWA process to address projects coming online in three years, rather than the five-year horizon which had been considered.
A Pepco spokesperson said the utility was pleased that the commission is continuing to move forward with grid modernization efforts.
"In particular, we commend the Commission's decision to advance this stakeholder-informed framework for distribution system planning that integrates third-party non-wires alternatives into Pepco's planning process," the spokesperson said in an email.
Pepco's original implementation timeframe assumed a final decision from the PSC would be delivered last year. Regulators have directed the utility to submit a revised DSP/NWA implementation timeframe within 30 days, and specified it must reflect the inclusion of a stakeholder informational meeting.
The PSC order also opened a new docket to investigate microgrid ownership and operation structures, business models and value propositions, and the benefits and costs of microgrids.