99 Participation at the PUC

Advocates of distributed generation (including Discos, manufacturers, customers, and others) will strategize on how best to seek the rules and rates from PUCs. As mentioned before, the regulatory focus is concentrated on the ~5000 megawatt level utility system. Of course, regulators do focus on customers, but primarily as a matter of rate design, not so much as a matter of engineering design. There is a threshold, often at a level of 10 megawatts or less, where PUCs allow utilities to make ordinary course-of-business investments without prior regulatory permission that may become subject to review in the context of a rate case or through tracking in a PBR review.

A change of state regulators' focus to distribution will take place first and foremost as the economic and engineering challenges of DG are resolved, and as a result of the outcome of EUIR. An important question for DG developers is: when is the time right for regulators to begin grappling with the DG issues?

Although the answer primarily may have to do with the state of the technological and economic development of DG, it may also have a lot to do with the particulars of each individual state and the role that Congress and others may take in setting standards and mandating a state response. There are national efforts, for example, to establish interconnection and net metering standards. If these succeed, it will make state proceedings move along much more easily. Speaking to a Congressional audience, Bev Jones, Vice President of External Affairs and Policy Development for Consolidated Natural Gas Company, said:

No matter how enthusiastic [state legislatures] are about distributed power, the states can only travel part of the way to creating an environment which will foster optimum development of dispersed generation. Only the federal government can assure that the benefits of distributed power — greater flexibility, lower costs, lower emissions, enhanced reliability, greater customer choice — reach all corners of the marketplace.

Some states are not waiting for federal action to materialize. PUCs in some populous states, or some states with high electric rates, along with some states facing severe capacity adequacy problems, have initiated proceedings regarding interconnection standards, codes, net metering, and other regulatory actions to incorporate DG into the electric grid. The traditional IEEE standard of activity is underway, and new standards should be developed by 2001, assuming the present schedule is adhered to. Most notably, California, Texas, and New York have conducted detailed work on DG. Net metering legislation, often aimed at encouraging renewable energy development, is becoming state law in more states each year. Since the competitive position of DG is better in these states, it is natural to see regulatory activity take place first in high cost states. States that have experienced generation adequacy problems, such as Texas,* have produced valuable work that other states can draw upon.

One can expect that the less populous and lower cost states may take more of a wait-and-see attitude before initiating procedures to assist DG. When one recognizes the intense pressures on PUCs as they struggle to implement provisions of the Telecommunications Regulation Act of 1996,** it may not be realistic to expect most PUCs to initiate regulatory procedures on DG on their own accord. The question of who will carry the burden of proof is important, and PUCs and their staffs (particularly in smaller states) are not accustomed to volunteering to take on this burden. Utilities often carry the burden, volunteering to do so when it is in their interest, or when required to do so by the PUC.

Once DG developers are reconciled to expect neither regulators nor Discos to voluntarily carry the burden, they may have two choices. The first choice is to move forward on their own and see what happens. Unless done carefully and deliberately, this carries the risk of frustration, possibly failure. The second choice, arguably the more effective if conditions are right, is to work closely with the Disco and PUC staff to arrive at a mutually agreeable procedural and substantive arrangement that provides incentives to the Disco to be a partner while meeting the needs of DG developers. If the Disco and DG constituents are in agreement, they should encourage residential and environmental stakeholders to review the arrangement to consider the consequences to their interests. Once confident that the arrangement will not precipitate controversy, the arrangements should be brought forward to the PUC. As expected, participants in PUC proceedings are typically better off coming forward with all of their "ducks in a row" if they want to improve their chances of success.

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

Solar Stirling Engine Basics Explained

The solar Stirling engine is progressively becoming a viable alternative to solar panels for its higher efficiency. Stirling engines might be the best way to harvest the power provided by the sun. This is an easy-to-understand explanation of how Stirling engines work, the different types, and why they are more efficient than steam engines.

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