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Collaborating for Gas Utility Decarbonization

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Beginning in late 2021, RMI and National Grid jointly convened a series of facilitated collaborative workshops with stakeholders from the nonprofit and utility sectors across several regions, including RAP. This roundtable group explored what it may take to decarbonize the gas distribution system in the United States and the customer end uses it serves today, with a focus on the nation’s residential and commercial buildings.

This report, the roundtable’s final product, describes how the process was designed and conducted and lays out a set of guiding principles and strategies to inform decarbonization of the gas utility and corresponding end uses. Because participants had widely divergent perspectives on an array of issues, the report seeks to reflect initial areas of consensus and does not necessarily reflect the specific policy positions of any individual participating organization. This report is meant as a first step to inform further discussion and action for policymakers and regulators, primarily at the state level.

Utility Regulation in the US: A Brief Introduction

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​In a webinar for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and the Southeast Sustainability Directors Network, David Farnsworth explored the power industry and how it is regulated in the public interest.

Performance-Based Regulation (PBR): An Overview

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​In a workshop for the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, John Shenot and Camille Kadoch provided an introduction to performance-based regulation as a key tool for aligning utility, ratepayer and public interests.

Performance-Based Regulation (PBR): An Overview

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​​In a webinar for the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, Camille Kadoch, Elaine Prause and Rick Weston provided an introduction to performance-based regulation as a key tool for aligning utility, ratepayer and public interests.

Building a Next-Generation Mix of Energy Resources: Procurement Best Practices

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Regulators have been thinking for decades about how competition can support an energy resource mix that best aligns with the public interest. Now, the landscape for competitive utility procurement is changing in many ways. Lower-cost renewables, increased electrification, decarbonization targets, and equity and affordability goals all present new opportunities — and challenges — for regulators and utilities.

In an interactive webinar, panelists discussed a “next-generation” approach to utility procurement and evolving best practices, based in part on recent work done by RAP and RMI. The webinar offered recommendations on how to design clear rules for procurement processes that consider all available resources, are aligned with both utility and public-policy objectives, and result in outcomes that offer the “least regrets.”

Anatomy of the Texas power outage: Where do the facts lead so far?

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In February 2021, an energy crisis in the U.S. state of Texas dominated the news around the globe. Citizens in homes unequipped for freezing temperatures struggled without power for days. The world watched in dismay as the situation grew more disastrous by the hour. Only in the wake of the event have the enormous financial costs of the failures in both the electricity and fossil gas sectors become clear.

Nearly four months later, debates rage on about the causes of the event and the best ways to prevent similar tragedies for consumers and other power system stakeholders. On 23 June 2021, the Electrification Academy welcomed power system reliability expert Michael Hogan of the Regulatory Assistance Project to peel back the layers of speculation and disinformation about the fateful event. He shed light on little-known facts and shared the best of the learnings so far.

Assessment tool for behind-the-meter investments by distribution companies in India

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The electric distribution sector in India is struggling financially. This is not a new problem, and its primary causes are well understood. The distribution utilities (discoms) have long faced challenges in revenue collection and shortfalls stemming from important cross-subsidies of residential and agricultural customers. There is, as a consequence, an over-dependence on revenues from the commercial and industrial (C&I) rate classes. Despite this, the Indian power sector has made substantial progress towards decarbonization as the share of renewable energy resources in the supply mix grows. Efforts toward energy efficiency driven though the labelling and standards initiatives have also contributed to the overall reduced carbon footprints.

Deeper decarbonization, achieved at the lowest cost, will require, among other things, investment in end-use energy efficiency, renewables, and storage solutions for all consumer categories. Discoms can take advantage of such opportunities if they see clear benefits (or, at least, no harm) to their businesses through accrued returns on equity. As India comes out of the pandemic-induced economic downturn, there is a clear need to support electricity infrastructure development at the transmission and distribution system levels. One key attribute of investments in efficiency, dispersed renewables, and storage solutions (behind the meter as well as front of the meter) is the avoided investments in network upgrades, particularly those in the distribution system.

RAP believes that there is real value in pilots that can demonstrate the efficacy and economic value of these kinds of investments to utility managers, regulators, and other policymakers. Our team worked with ps Collective to develop a spreadsheet tool that enables analysts to create detailed investment scenarios and compare different strategies even at the level of individual feeders. This granularity will allow discoms and regulators to test whether targeted interventions will not only produce economic and environmental benefits, but also relieve the financial burdens on the discoms and their C&I customers.

We invite interested parties to use the spreadsheet tool and assess its usefulness. We welcome your feedback. The tool and a manual are available for a download here.

Reach out to Rick Weston with specific questions and to provide feedback.