The Dallas Morning News

Electric companies should plug in to consumer market

Industry has a role to play in next generation of energy resources, says Lisa Wood

- Lisa Wood is vice president of customer solutions at the Edison Electric Institute and executive director of the Institute for Electric Innovation. She wrote this column for InsideSour­ Twitter: @ LisaWoodEn­ergy

Electric companies are investing more than $100 billion each year to build smarter energy infrastruc­ture and transition to cleaner generation sources.

Distribute­d energy offerings, like private and community solar, electric vehicles and energy storage, represent exciting new pathways for expanding customer choices. Electric companies should be able to offer more of these services directly to customers and to participat­e in competitiv­e markets for these services.

Regulation­s in many states still prevent it, but some states have recognized the importance of allowing electric companies to participat­e in the market.

In 2014, the California Public Utilities Commission recognized that electric companies have a unique role to play in electric vehicle charging infrastruc­ture across the state, and the commission overturned a rule that prohibited their participat­ion in the market. As a result, California’s three investorow­ned electric companies are launching pilot programs to install a combined 12,500 charging stations throughout the state.

Another example is private solar photovolta­ic cells in Arizona. The Arizona Corporatio­n Commission has approved two private residentia­l solar pilots: Arizona Public Service’s two-stage project to offer private solar PV to residentia­l customers and Tucson Electric Power’s Residentia­l Solar Program, serving approximat­ely 500 to 600 customers of all types, regardless of credit score. The electric company-provided solar represents only a fraction of the private solar market in Arizona.

According to a report from the Institute for Electric Innovation, there are three factors critical to a successful competitiv­e market for distribute­d energy resources and other energy services.

1. A regulatory structure that prioritize­s technology innovation and customer needs is essential. This means that in order for electric companies to offer distribute­d energy resources and other energy services beyond electricit­y supply and energy grid services, the pricing of retail electricit­y supply and energy grid services must be cost-based and transparen­t. 2. A successful distribute­d energy resources market requires a level playing field. Implementi­ng rules and regulation­s that apply equally to electric companies and thirdparty providers allowing both to participat­e fairly in the market will benefit customers. It’s important that regulation­s focus on providing customers with access to services, ensuring a minimum level of performanc­e, and establishi­ng or reinforcin­g customer protection­s.

3. Competitiv­e services should be paid for by the customers who benefit from them, and not bundled with non-competitiv­e services. It is critical that regulation­s avoid creating a cost shift or subsidy from one customer to another.

The electric power industry has a critical role to play in shepherdin­g and deploying the next generation of energy resources and services into the hands of all customers.

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