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.
The key changes the bill would mandate are:
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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Additional Contributing Author: Chris Sturgill
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