By Robert Marritz
February 16, 2017 -- Washington, D.C. — “Updating the Regulatory Toolkit to Deploy Renewables,” a panel offered by NARUC’s Energy, Resources and Environment Committee, drew a standing room crowd Tuesday, including a high-level contingent from the Edison Electric Institute. It did not disappoint. Led by California PUC Commissioner Carla Peterman, a witty and provocative moderator, it took today’s regulatory toolkit, shook it upside down to assess it, and found … well, they actually voted on some issues, so stay tuned. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Senior Scientist Ryan Wiser set it all in motion stage with a rapid-fire account of the rise of wind and solar—why over 70% of installed MW in 2016 was wind and solar. Wind and solar lack the associated energy and firm capacity of other resources, but they are aided by being non-polluting, by supportive state and federal policies and incentives, and by ever-declining costs. Among the tools states wield: renewable portfolio standards; rates, including incentive and TOU rates; rebates and tax credits; net energy metering; and integrated resource planning. At the end of it all, Peterman would unveil a game. The panel and audience would vote on three “tools”: net energy metering; utility ownership of renewables; and renewable portfolio standards. The options: Keep the policy. Toss it. Reform it. See results below.
Three respondents, all former state regulators, addressed the advantages and problems renewable pose from different perspectives. Jeanne Fox, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and former New Jersey BPU commissioner, focused on the value and complexities presented by community (shared) solar and community choice aggregation, which enable the ~90% of energy users who can’t install solar on their dwelling to gain access to solar. That wider access—as developers in Minnesota, Colorado, California and elsewhere found—allows developments of from 2-MW to 20-MW, approximating the benefits of grid-scale development and management. But each state’s policies on siting, interconnection, and subscription agreements mean there is no single approach.