By Jesse Berst
Quick Take: Here's a concept. What if consumer and environmental groups were not adversaries of utilities but partners instead? What if they collaborated with utilities to agree on a plan, then went to the public utility commission to argue in favor of the utility's filing?
That's what is happening in Illinois, where both Ameren and ComEd have partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) to create performance measures â€“ 19 tracking metrics in the case of Ameren and 20 for ComEd.
I have to agree with EDF attorney Raya Salter when she hopes that "these tracking metrics mechanisms and metrics will serve as models for other utilities around the country." I urge you to study what's going on in Illinois and to borrow ideas that might apply to your jurisdiction.
The basics of the plan are listed below. But you have to read between the lines to grasp the full implications. The utilities will be measured with much more precision than ever before. If they miss their targets, they will be penalized. If they meet or exceed them, they will get benefits. Most regulatory schemes are heavy on the stick and light on the carrot. I believe Illinois' balanced approach will achieve better results.
ComEd and Ameren launched the new smart grid initiatives in with EDF and CUB on April 1. The two organizations worked directly with the utilities to develop the comprehensive new metrics to measure the environmental and consumer benefits of the grid modernization effort. As reported on the EDF web site, the tracking mechanisms will measure such things as:
- Overall energy savings
- Customer outreach efforts
- Enrollment in energy conservation rebate programs
- Reductions in peak energy demand
- Increases in renewable energy adoption
- Increases in the use of smart energy devices
- Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
In addition, ComEd and Ameren have agreed to continue to work with EDF and CUB to create additional ways to measure how the smart grid initiative can reduce emissions and electrical line losses. As opposed to the vague metrics of the past (such as customer surveys), these new mechanisms more accurately track where and whether customers are realizing actual benefits.
Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.
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