Utility regulators, whether they be veterans or new to the job, are often eager to make a positive impact on the transformation of the electric sector by addressing such areas as distributed generation and storage, electric vehicles (EVs) and carbon policy. Many commissions are breaking new ground in these and other areas and can serve as examples to their peers. In this brief paper, we focus on recent activities at one public utilities commission, the Minnesota PUC. Some good things are happening there.

We highlight three proceedings that are demonstrating some best practice features.

The first is the implementation of distributed energy resource interconnection standard updates. Minnesota convened its proceeding in advance of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers adopting a new standard (IEEE 1547-2018), which enabled the commission to be among the first to complete an update at the state level that comports with the new standard. Minnesota is now in a position to take on some of the more complex features of the new standard, including those driven by the expanding capabilities of inverter-based resources.

The second area is EV charging infrastructure pilots. Again the commission has chosen to act in advance, anticipating a coming trend and identifying programs that will accelerate EV uptake. We highlight a residential EV service pilot and a rural EV charging pilot.

The third area involves the consideration of performance-based regulation to better align utility, consumer and public interests. The process demonstrated best practices in several areas, including making use of a facilitator to consider goals and outcomes with stakeholders; involving a broad set of stakeholders from the start; and ensuring active engagement by commissioners throughout. The fruitful engagement produced several areas of focus and metrics that RAP believes were original to this process.

Several themes emerge from these examples that point to underlying best practices at the Minnesota commission:

  • Initiative in forging new pathways to accelerate adoption of beneficial technologies.
  • Commitment to open stakeholder processes to explore change.
  • Engagement of relevant stakeholders and willing utilities to promote change.
  • Promotion of statewide standardization where possible to reduce transaction costs.
  • Practical implementation steps that set the stage for further improvements as technologies, systems and utilities warrant.
  • Innovation with novel approaches as they present themselves from stakeholder and utility interactions.

Regulators on the lookout for great ideas coming from other commissions will find much to consider in Minnesota.