I have been lucky enough to attend the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) Annual Meeting, this year held in New Orleans. This has been a great opportunity for a couple of reasons. Professionally, I’ve been able to network with different stakeholders across the country. Personally, I took advantage of the opportunity to dive right into the NOLA experience with my first beignet and Sazerac cocktail.
The conference hit on various themes, including innovation and planning for energy security, solutions for distributed energy resources access and resiliency, and partnerships across states and regional landscapes. These current topics are extremely relevant for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region, and it was exciting to see topics which are near and dear to our region appear on the national landscape. We’re entering uncharted territory as we plan for the future of the electric grid. Learning from each other at this conference was a great opportunity to view current policy in the NEEP region in a larger context and understanding.
State Energy Planning
States are creating forward-thinking energy plans to help set aggressive energy policies and establish metrics to measure progress toward achieving state energy goals. These state energy plans promote investment in community resiliency, microgrids, advanced energy solutions, and non-wires alternatives to help meet state energy needs. NASEO brought together state energy officials from across the country to address the opportunity state energy plans present in moving states ahead in state and local energy planning.
Connecticut recently released the draft 2017 Comprehensive Energy Strategy with a focus on the electric power sector, buildings, and transportation. The Constitution State has the opportunity to advance home energy labeling with its Home Energy Score program. Highlighted in the strategy, Connecticut has completed over 21,000 scores. By adding opt-out language to the program, Connecticut will be able to share scores that will provide a market transformation opportunity by highlighting the importance of home energy performance. In addition, Connecticut will be able to participate in Home Energy Labeling Information eXchange (HELIX), by auto-populating Home Energy Score with the Multiple Listing Service.
Monday morning’s session kicked off with a panel discussing energy markets and policy innovations in state energy offices and at public utility commissions. This panel brought to mind Rhode Island, with its Power Sector Transformation Initiative. This joint effort in the Ocean State between the Department of Energy Resources, the Public Utility Commission, the Department of Public Utilities, and Carriers is an example of the evolving coordination between state energy offices and PUCs that is crucial in order to advance state energy planning to keep pace with energy system transformation.
There were sessions covering electric vehicles (EVs) and strategic electrification. Rhode Island has a work stream on electrification, with a focus on EVs in the Power Sector Transformation Initiative. NEEP submitted comments. The relevance of this session at NASEO was made clear by the numerous discussions of infrastructure and policies needed in order for EVs to take off and transform the market. Rhode Island and many other states around the region are working to grow the penetration of EVs.
Barriers to EV adoption include the need for charging infrastructure – particularly in rural areas – and the hesitation to deploy EV charging infrastructure through utilities because stakeholders do not want to pass costs to non-EV owners. Sessions tackling these topics help states work through barriers by understanding what other states have done to overcome them. Massachusetts has an open grant to help employers install level one and level two charging stations, which helps increase the accessibility for EV owners to charge while at work.
New Jersey initiated a stakeholder process to examine the potential impact electric vehicles may have on the distribution system. The New Jersey Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Stakeholder Group was established as an informal proceeding to solicit comments and input from stakeholders to help the Board of Public Utilities develop EV infrastructure policies. The BPU also accepted a report on the ability to develop and explore various business models that include support for EVs.
Resiliency and Regional Planning
A key message that I took away from the NASEO conference is that regional coordination and collaboration is extremely important. Recently, the RGGI states announced proposed program changes: an additional 30 percent emissions cap decline by 2030 (over 132 million tons CO2) as well as higher prices for emissions allowances. The RGGI states also announced the creation of an Emissions Containment Reserve for extra allowances that go unsold at auction. This additional cap is equal to over 132 million tons of C02, equal to emissions from over 28 million cars in a year.
State energy plans and initiatives that are working to transform the electric grid to be more resilient and reliable are more important than ever before. In a time when there have been various hurricanes and extreme weather events, it becomes clear that energy emergency preparedness and response is needed across the region. More must be done to mitigate the impacts of climate change and to reach regional carbon reduction goals. Energy efficiency, in the form of these initiatives and plans, will lead the way. . States in the region are addressing the very issues covered at the NASEO Annual Meeting. As the energy system continues to evolve, our planning needs to grow alongside with it.
Action today for a better tomorrow.