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Western Public Utility Commissioners Gather to Discuss 21st Century Retail Electricity Rate Design, Future of Energy Storage

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[Denver, October 14, 2015] – Public utility commissioners from across the Western states gathered today in Denver to discuss retail rate design for the 21st century in light of technology advancements, evolving customer expectations, and new state and federal policies. The gathering of 14 commissioners from 11 Western states (Alaska, Ariz., Calif., Colo., Hawaii, Idaho, Mont., N.M., Nev., Wash., and Utah) also discussed the future of energy storage and the related opportunities and issues for regulators to consider. Session topics were selected in advance by the commissioners.

The Advanced Energy Economy Institute Western PUC Forum was co-hosted by Chairman Susan Bitter Smith of the Arizona Corporation Commission, Chairman David Danner of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, Chairman Joshua Epel of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Vice Chairman Travis Kavulla of the Montana Public Service Commission, and President Michael Picker of the California Public Utilities Commission. This meeting was the fourth in a series of regional forums held in cooperation with utility commissioners and facilitated by the AEE Institute.

“With the changing nature of energy source choices for customers, we as policy makers
must understand new rate design options,” said Susan Bitter Smith, Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission and President of the Western Conference of Public Service Commissioners. “I really appreciate the opportunity to hear about best practices from experts and fellow commissioners.” 

“It’s great to learn about the latest applications for innovative energy technologies,” said Travis Kavulla, Vice Chairman of the Montana Public Service Commission and First Vice President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions. “Energy storage, for instance, offers a number of benefits that should be considered when weighing other alternatives to managing grid reliability, peak demand, and cost.” 

“Retail rate design is very complicated and there are many different options to consider, each with its pros and cons to meet intended goals,” said Joshua Epel, Chairman, Colorado Public Utilities Commission. “It’s invaluable to learn from experts and other commissioners in the Western region facing the same challenges and issues.”

Discussions with experts on retail rate design covered such hot topics as time-varying rates, fixed and demand charges, and rate structures for distributed generation. Participating experts provided a wide range of perspectives: Phil Hanser from The Brattle Group (utility perspective), Matt O’Keefe of Opower and Tom Starrs of SunPower Corp. (advanced energy companies), and Jim Lazar, Regulatory Assistance Project (consumers).

A panel on energy storage looked at market projections over the next five to 10 years and applications that Commissioners are likely to see to address peak demand, renewable energy integration, and use in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Experts involved in the discussion were Tesla’s Jim Chen, Kiran Kumaraswamy from AES Energy Storage, John Fernandes from RES Americas, and Navigant Consulting’s Jay Paidipati.

“The AEE Institute is proud to work with state commissioners to facilitate these important conversations about innovations in the way we generate, distribute, consume and save energy,” said Hannah Polikov, Director of the PUC Engagement Program at Advanced Energy Economy and the AEE Institute. “We look forward to continuing to engage with state regulators across the nation and discuss ways to effectively regulate our changing electric power system.”

The AEE Institute’s Advanced Energy PUC Forums are part of a broader effort to engage industry and regulators in addressing key challenges and opportunities facing the utility sector. Advanced Energy Economy has also held a series of 21st Century Electricity System CEO Forums and follow-on Working Groups in which executives of utility companies, advanced energy companies, and regulators in various states recommend new business and regulatory models to encourage the adoption of advanced energy technologies in the power sector. Together, the AEE and Institute programs are helping to define pathways toward new products and services, network infrastructure and operational models, and regulatory frameworks that will provide consumers with a more robust, resilient, dynamic, and consumer-oriented power system.  

About the AEE Institute

The Advanced Energy Economy Institute is a nonprofit educational and charitable organization committed to raising awareness about the public benefits of advanced energy. The AEE Institute is affiliated with Advanced Energy Economy (www.aee.net), a national association of businesses that are making the energy we use secure, clean, and affordable. The AEE Institute helps to spread the word about advanced energy and its value in moving the country and the world toward a better energy future.

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Media Contact:

Monique Hanis, mhanis@aee.net, 202-391-0884