North Carolina’s Electric Utilities Submit Their First Smart Grid Technology Plans

It is undisputed that smart grid technologies offer numerous benefits to electric utilities and customers. Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress, and Dominion North Carolina Power filed their first Smart Grid Technology plans on October 1, 2014. These plans provide the Commission and stakeholders an opportunity to determine whether the utilities have taken the steps necessary to enable customers to reap the benefits that smart grid technologies offer; however, the utilities filed plans fail to provide sufficient detail and do not comply with Rule R8-60.1. The NC Sustainable Energy Association (“NCSEA”) and the Environmental Defense Fund (“EDF”) jointly submitted comments addressing the deficiencies in the utilities plans, such as the inadequate information on customer access to their energy consumption data, cost-benefit analyses, and adequate technology descriptions.

There are opportunities for customer savings as smart grid technologies are planned and deployed. Information provided by these technologies can be utilized by academic and government institutions to conduct research, businesses to develop energy management services, and allow customers greater control. Clearly, numerous companies are actively utilizing smart grid technologies in other states, and are willing and able do so in North Carolina, despite some of the assertions contained in the plans filed by the utilities. Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress provided no response to Rule R8-60.1(c)(8), instead stated that “[n]o third-parties currently utilize any of the planned technologies, nor is customer information shared with any third-parties.” Letters from PlotWatt, a company based in Durham, and Mission:data, a national organization whose members include EnerNOC, Lucid, Nest, and PlotWatt, support that third-parties do utilize smart grid technologies, particularly the information on customer energy consumptions that smart grid technologies are capable of collecting to deliver energy savings tools to customers.

NCSEA has previously noted in its comments that there is a need for the Commission to open a separate rulemaking docket focused on creating and modernizing rules for accessing customer information. The utilities recently filed plans continue to fail to address the accessibility of customer usage information. NCSEA and EDF note that the adoption of clear data access policies at this time will benefit customers even if smart grid technologies are installed gradually over a longer period of time. Awareness and control of energy consumption can be optimized if data access policies ensure granular time-based data is accessible. Many services and products provided by the utilities and third parties, such as an energy management services and time-based pricing, are obsolete without energy usage data. Granularity of data can be dictated by the Commission based on available and installed technologies. Transparency can be created by adopting carefully crafted policies giving customers control over their data.

NCSEA and EDF requested that the Commission decline to issue an order accepting the plans until supplemental information is provided by the utilities and require such information be included in all future smart grid technology plans and requested the Commission initiate a rulemaking to address data access.

To read the full comments, click here.

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