red apple, book, ABC blocks, colored pencils

After a hot summer, some of us have had a couple of days of cooler weather that point to that time of year again — back to school. In the spirit of continuous learning, part one of our two-part series highlights a couple of our favorite reports that provide qualitative and quantitative perspectives on the evolving world of technology, policy and customer interests when it comes to delivering power to homes and businesses. 

  1. Edison Foundation Electric Company Smart Meter Deployments: Foundation for a Smart Grid (2019 Update) – Nearly 70% of households in the U.S. have smart advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) electric meters, many of which play a role in outage detection, time-varying rates and delivering real-time energy insights through the home area network. What’s not included is how many natural gas meters have been converted to AMI. As beneficial electrification spreads, will utilities look to smart meters as a way to minimize stranded assets of pipelines and other natural gas infrastructure?
  2. Brattle Flexible Load – In order to address challenges of peak demand, renewable integration and geographic load management with help from rapid adoption of emerging consumer technologies, nearly 200 GW (or 20% of the estimated U.S. peak load) will be cost-effective load flexibility by 2030, which would more than triple the country’s existing demand response (DR) capability. This report calls out some regional examples, but it also acknowledged that the potential and details of delivering load flexibility varies greatly by region. What is the key influencer of potential in each region? Resource mix, regulatory framework, customer demographics?
  3. ACEEE Leveraging AMI – The tables in this report do a great job of showing the multifaceted energy-saving use cases by leveraging AMI data from 52 electric utilities. The report diplomatically notes that some utilities are making more out of their investment than others, but it doesn’t identify all utilities. Given 30% of households in the U.S. still have AMR or manual-read meters, will regulators expect these utilities to propose these energy-saving solutions if they seek approval for AMI investments?
  4. ACEEE Efficiency Scorecard – This annual report is filled with quantitative and qualitative measurements to identify top-ranking (Eversource & National Grid), most improved (LADWP & Consumers Energy) and some laggards of energy efficiency programming. It mostly focuses on investor-owned utilities, with a couple of municipally owned utilities. It does not include co-ops. How would co-ops compare, and would some of those trends have some correlation to the ranking of IOUs in the same region?
  5. SEPA Keeping Customers at the Center of Grid Mod – This white paper calls attention to recent challenges of getting regulators to approve AMI and grid modernization proposals from utilities in Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia. The paper includes four recommendations to approach grid modernization initiatives but does not propose specific technological solutions. The underlying question and tension is how do you define customer benefits from grid modernization when some of the benefits may be more tangible than others? For example: Improved reliability vs. rate programs and customer access to data.

The energy sector is constantly shifting. Keeping up with technological advances, policy trends and evolving customer expectations will only help forward-thinking utilities remain on the cutting edge and able to effectively deliver power to the homes, businesses and schools that need it as we get back into the swing of back-to-school. Stay tuned for part two and five additional energy reports!