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Utility Shift: Examining New York’s Vision for Distributed Service Platform Providers

New York has been lauded for its Reforming the Energy Vision proposal, arguably the most forward-looking vision of any state for pushing its power system into the 21st century.

Central to the transformation is the provision for transforming distribution utilities from the role they play today into functioning as "distributed service platform providers" for a decentralized energy system.

In late February, the New York Public Service Commission outlined its vision for the DSPPs in more detail. Each distribution utility in the state will have to file their distributed system implementation plan by December 15.

With more than a thousand comments on the initial REV proposal, much is still up for debate. Many argued that the utilities should not be allowed to be the DSPPs at all, something that the PSC strongly pushed back on.

While it may seem like a win for the utilities, they will not be able to be both platform providers and owners of distributed generation assets, as they had hoped to. There will be exceptions with utility-scale storage and in places where the market may not function, such as with low-income residents.

The most recent New York PSC filing also suggested that utilities will have to share some level of customer data with third-party providers that will own the distributed assets. They will also have to share data on system operations that could help third parties determine where to site distributed generation.

The latter is already starting to happening. As part of New York’s $40 million microgrid prize, utilities had to map areas of distribution congestion, which are being renamed "opportunity zones." The current map identifies just the critical infrastructure within the constrained zones, but eventually it will include more information, such as the locations of distributed solar and combined-heat-and-power installations.

Even more contentious is the issue of how much consumer data could and should be shared, and in what format. Customers will be able to opt out of having any data shared. The utilities will also likely have to share not just customer electric data, but also physical space on monthly bills. The most recent filing suggested that there may need to be a space set aside on customer utility bills to allow ESCOs and other third parties to reach customers.

One of the areas that could see the most variation among utilities in the filings at the end of the year is the technologies and architectures each will choose to manage all of the customer data and operational data that has to be shared. Those that are most successful at providing data information services will have the most to gain.

But long before new utility bills are rolled out or the platforms are launched, the New York distribution utilities will have to rethink their energy efficiency programs. Utilities will continue to provide energy efficiency measures, “but under a new framework designed to provide the utilities with more flexibility to achieve their targets in innovative and cost-effective ways,” the PSC stated in the filing.

Each utility will have to file an energy-efficiency transition implementation plan by the end of March. Moving forward, the programs will introduce market mechanisms “that combine resource acquisition with third-party activities to increase market penetration of efficiency measures,” according to the PSC.

To learn more about how the DSPPs will operate and what it means for New York’s energy economy, join NYC Acre and Solar One for the first Clean Energy Connections event of 2015, “Models for the Future Utility: Examining New York State’s Distributed Service Platform Provider Vision.”

Steve Propper, director of grid edge research at GTM Research, will lead the discussion on March 11 at 7 p.m. in New York City along with Kate Burson, chief of staff to Richard Kauffman, the chairman of energy and finance for New York; Gerry Docherty, CEO of Smarter Grid Solutions; and Charles Freni, SVP of customer services at Central Hudson Gas & Electric.

General admission is $25 and student admission is $10. Advance tickets can be purchased here.

If you cannot join the discussion in person, Greentech Media will stream the event live at the link below and at Questions can be submitted via Twitter @CleanECNYC with hashtag #CleanNRGx.

If you can’t make this Clean Energy Connections event, check out the schedule for the rest of the events discussing New York’s evolving energy vision in 2015.

via Greentech Media: Headlines