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For our latest Grid Minute, please see below.

A First-of-Its-Kind Move: D.C. Council Proposes a Revolutionary Approach to Distribution Planning

On April 10, D.C. Council members Mary Cheh and Charles Allen introduced the Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Authority Act of 2018, calling for several notable and unprecedented changes to distribution planning. Specifically, the bill introduces a new independent body that would undertake several activities normally performed by electric utilities, including non-wires alternative (NWA) planning and evaluation, customer data sharing, and distribution resource plan (DRP) development.

Key Details

The key changes the bill would mandate are:

  • An independent body, the DER Authority, that would be responsible for several aspects of distribution planning, overseen by a board of 11 voting members appointed by the D.C. Council (6) and Mayor (5)
  • The DER Authority would:
    • Perform NWA analysis and evaluation, and review the ensuing RFP results, for projects designed to expand system capacity or enhance system reliability with costs exceeding $25M
    • Develop an application programming interface on their platform to provide consumers and third parties time-stamped interval energy data in real time; this AMI and historical billing data must be sourced from the utilities in a machine-to-machine format to enable secure automated data transport
    • Develop and publish a DRP annually
      • The DRP would outline how the electric company can achieve four goals
        • Accelerate the integration of intercommunicating and operationally trustworthy DER
        • Create efficient electric company distribution system planning operations
        • Increase the penetration of local clean energy generation, including community renewable energy facilities
        • Reduce rates to all ratepayers in D.C.
      • The DRP would include an evaluation of and proposals for:
        • The use of dynamic hosting capacity analysis in interconnection processes and distribution system planning
        • Locational net benefit analysis
        • The use of NWAs
        • Incorporating probabilistic load forecasting
        • Recommendations for bi-directional data access
        • Coordination of existing programs, incentives, and tariffs to maximize locational benefits of DER
        • Incentives based on system performance
        • Additional resources necessary to integrate cost-effective DER
      • The electric utility would:
        • Provide all AMI, historical billing, and interconnection data necessary to the DER Authority such that it can perform its analyses
        • Fund the development and implementation of the DRP

Implications

If passed, the DER Authority Act of 2018 represents a pivotal shift in the governance of grid modernization proceedings. The content of the assessments and data requested looks familiar to recent developments in other jurisdictions. In New York, for instance, the utility has been assigned as the platform, with data sharing among its many responsibilities. In California, the DRPs filed by utilities include similar analyses for locational net benefits and plans for dynamic hosting capacity. What is dramatically different in the proposed bill in D.C. is that, for the first time ever in the United States, an independent body—not the utility—would have the authority and mandate to perform the analysis and planning that serve as inputs to the DRPs and recommendations to the Commission. Those recommendations, if approved, must ultimately be implemented by the utility. The D.C. DER Authority proposal represents a novel approach to the division of responsibilities for distribution planning and a dramatic departure from business as usual for the typical stakeholders in the process. This development will be watched closely to see if it can lead to better outcomes for customers—or if it introduces unnecessary complexity and agency questions as more cooks are brought into the kitchen.

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