Utilities

MEEA's Guide to Utility Consumer Advocates in the Midwest

The average Midwesterner pays 65% more for electricity than they did at the turn of the millennium. Saving energy is a key way to help lower customer bills even with rising rates. Utility Consumer Advocates (UCAs) represent residential customers before regulators and legislatures, and they use their expertise to help ensure ratepayer dollars are spent prudently and cost-effectively.

The Birth and Evolution of a Successful EE Program

In September, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy completed a case study profiling MEEA’s HVAC Savings Adjustment and Verified Efficiency (HVAC SAVE) program, which tells the story of how MEEA partnered with utilities in Iowa to launch a HVAC quality installation and quality maintenance program that has resulted in over 100,000 jobs and substantial energy savings.

Industrial EE Problems? Go Straight to the Source

Industrial energy efficiency is losing ground in the Midwest. Though it’s one of the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures, states are increasingly allowing industrial customers to opt-out of paying into energy efficiency programs or exempting them from doing so altogether. As a result, overall energy savings and the cost-effectiveness of EE programs are on the edge of decline.

Reaching the Hardest Segment: Small- and Medium-Sized Manufacturers

Big Benefits...

At a recent conference in Milwaukee hosted by M-WERC, the opportunities for reducing energy consumption at small- and medium-sized manufacturing facilities were touted repeatedly: Cost savings, productivity increases, improved worker safety and plant conditions, extended equipment lifetimes, corporate marketing benefits – the list goes on.

New Research: Industrial Opt-Outs Undermine Energy Savings

With increased constraints on our nation’s electric grid energy experts turn to large energy users to reduce energy waste and ensure long-term electric reliability. While the Midwest could benefit significantly from industrial energy efficiency, opt-out policies threaten to undercut that savings potential.

The Utility of the Future Part 3: Putting the Customer at the Forefront in Ohio

For the last century, utilities that provided safe, reliable and affordable service could be reasonably assured of their continued profitability as long as the demand for electricity continued climbing and competing outside pressures were minimized. However, in recent years, the model of hitching profits to increased infrastructure investment and greater sales is proving unsustainable in the long-term. Distributed energy resources and improved efficiency technologies are displacing increasing parts of the utility service, taking some of the revenues that go with it.

The Utility of the Future Pt 2: Innovation in Missouri

The Midwest has a strong track record of creativity and innovation: sliced bread, improv comedy, the Model T and, best of all, Post-It notes! And now we see that same spirit of innovation being pursued within the utility sector.

In my July 18 blog post, I alluded to the Missouri Public Service Commission’s (PSC) inquiry into emerging issues in utility regulation. Missouri is one of four Midwest states that have, or are undertaking, “utility 2.0” or “utility of the future” exploratory initiatives.

In April, the PSC issued an order (EW-2017-0245) opening a working case to explore five emerging issues:

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times (for Data Wonks)

As we hit mid-summer, I begin to look forward to the things I love about the fall: jackets and sweaters, my kids going back to school and four months of being up to my ears in utility data. This is the time of year that I plan for one of my most challenging annual tasks - updating MEEA’s tracking data to include the latest round of utility annual reporting on energy efficiency spending and savings. It's a labor of love that occupies much of my time September through January so we can release new estimates at our annual Midwest Energy Solutions Conference in February.

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NextGrid: The Utility of the Future Starts Now

On March 22, 2017, the Illinois Commerce Commission passed a resolution initiating the NextGrid Utility of the Future Study. NextGrid will be an 18-month collaborative process to explore the ways in which alternative utility regulatory models, advances in technology, and consumer preferences and engagement can shape the grid of the future. This initiative will build upon the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, the Illinois Statewide Smart Grid Collaborative and the recent Future Energy Jobs Act.

Michigan’s IRP Assessment Kicks Off this Week

The MPSC’s IRP Authority

One big story coming out of the Michigan energy package enacted this past December is the significant authority given to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on a number of critically important facets of energy policy analysis, administration and implementation.