Grid modernisation: US energy industry unveils updated America Power Plan

America's Power Plan updated to reform grid
150 utility leaders worked on the revision of America’s Power Plan, which pushes for greater adoption of clean energy and demand response programmes to cut the need for new power plants

In the US, a group of energy experts this week released a set of recommendations on how policymakers and regulators can update America’s Power Plan.

The power plan was first released in 2013, and was the first comprehensive national effort towards grid modernisation.

A network of 150 utility leaders, regulators, and academics unveiled their updated version at the Mid-Atlantic Conference of Regulatory Utilities Commissioners in a bid to provide a toolkit “to steer the United States’ power sector transformation toward a clean, affordable, and reliable system”.

Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation, the company that curated the new plan, said: “Smart policies, market designs, and business models can speed America’s transition to a low-carbon electricity future.

“This blueprint can help reach our clean energy potential without sacrificing grid reliability or consumer affordability.”

Grid modernisation policy

The blueprint – America’s Power Plan – provides policy recommendations on four key topics: ratemaking and utility business models, regional planning for transmission and distribution infrastructure, market design, and system optimization.

The document gives updates on how smart grid technology can help save consumers money by using a smart portfolio of renewable energy and demand-side resources, reducing the need for new peaking power plants.

Other indicators of a move towards grid reform, include utilities and regulators thinking about rate designs and market structures to accurately value grid flexibility, distributed resources becoming more important to power generation, system optimization, and long-term planning.

The plan also outlines how states are introducing performance-based utility regulation, enabling utilities to earn more profit from delivering customer value rather than from capital spending or volume of sales.

Commenting on the need for the plan revision, Ron Lehr, former Colorado Public Utilities Commission Chairman and APP author, said: “In 2013, America’s Power Plan anticipated today’s trends – several initial grid modernisation recommendations have already been enacted.

“Now APP’s refreshed recommendations incorporate that progress and highlight a path for smart US electricity policy based on today’s thinking and new realities.”