the Wire e-newsletter Plugging you in to the electric industry
Greetings from the Customers First! Coalition. My name is Kristin Gilkes, and I am proud to be the new executive director for the Customers First! Coalition, a group that first organized more than twenty years ago to preserve Wisconsin’s affordable and reliable electric service.
Over the past few months, the Customers First! Coalition has been engaging industry stakeholders and customers in a dialogue about “grid modernization.” While there are many definitions for grid modernization, I invite you to explore the content below and decide for yourself what grid modernization means and what potential benefits exist for customers.
Below you’ll find a column on the topic by PSCW Chairperson Ellen Nowak, who also shared her perspective at a “Power Dialogue” forum our organization hosted in November. You’ll find news coverage, links, and photos related to the event, as well. Additionally, you’ll see some exciting news about new wind generation projects that are moving forward for Wisconsin customers!
And, the best is yet to come. Our 2018 Power Breakfast will explore changing customer expectations in the context of grid modernization and new technologies. We will feature consumer advocates, industry professionals, and other stakeholders. I hope you can join us on February 8, 2018, at our Power Breakfast! Register today!
On, Wisconsin, and happy holidays!
Column: Grid Modernization – Energizing Wisconsin Forward By Ellen Nowak, Chairperson of the Public Service Commission of WisconsinLast month I had the opportunity to speak at a Customers First! Power Dialogue event about what Wisconsin is doing in the area of “grid modernization.” Talking about a topic that doesn’t have a universal definition can be a challenge, but there are some universal themes in the context of grid modernization. Regardless of the precise definition used, most agree that grid modernization’s core tenets revolve around the convergence of evolving customer needs and expectations, combined with the emergence of new technologies in the energy sector.Before we embark on where we should go, it makes sense to take stock of where we’ve been. The good news is that Wisconsin has been active in many facets of grid modernization for years. One of the earliest examples is the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s (PSCW) authorization of Wisconsin Power & Light’s mandatory time-of-day rate tariffs in November 1976. In the past five years alone, the PSCW has approved innovative programs and tariffs for 28 different electric utilities. These include programs and tariffs related to electric vehicles, community solar projects, market based rate designs, new load market pricing rate designs, distributed energy resources special tariffs, time of use rates, fixed bills, and a renewable energy rider. Wisconsin utilities are also upgrading their customer information systems and installing advanced metering infrastructure to allow for the implementation of these new tariffs, as well as provide critically important information for customers to make energy usage decisions. A key statistic that demonstrates these infrastructure investments is related to the penetration of advanced meters to residential customers: of the 2.6 million residential electric customers in Wisconsin, 78% now have meters than can be read remotely, and approximately 39% of residential customers have meters that have two-way communication capabilities. These advanced meters provide an improved flow of information between the utility and its customers, potentially allowing for earlier outage detection and quicker restoration of service, as well as providing customers with real-time energy usage information to make better informed usage decisions.So where do we go from here? The progress that has been made has not been achieved alone, but through the collaboration of utilities, stakeholders representing ratepayers and other interests, as well as the PSCW. Our ability to work cooperatively on these topics as an entire industry in a regulated environment is the envy of many other states. It makes sense to take advantage of this collaborative spirit and continue to identify issues to work on together. In this vein, the PSCW surveyed a broad array of stakeholders to prioritize grid modernization issues for Wisconsin. Earlier this fall, the PSCW conducted a survey of the utilities and stakeholders who work most closely together on grid modernization issues, including representatives from the five largest investor owned utilities, municipal utilities, customer advocates, industrial customers, trade associations, cooperatives, and environmental groups.The survey results showed that the top five priorities for all stakeholders (in order of priority) are:
1) interconnection of customer-owned distributed energy resources;
2) identification of customers’ changing expectations, preferences, and behaviors;
3) uses and benefits of advanced meters;
4) maintaining the safety and reliability of the existing distribution system; and
5) increased electrification.Given these results, the next step is to plot a course for the PSCW to cultivate conversations around the highest priority grid modernization topics for Wisconsin’s stakeholders. The survey has provided us with sufficient data to begin these positive conversations among stakeholders. Our plan is to work with Customers First! and other organizations to hold meetings and informational sessions on these topics over the next several months. The goal is to get utilities, stakeholders and the PSCW in a room together to find ways to take advantage of opportunities and identify solutions to common problems outside of contested proceedings. We can learn from each other, informally kick around proposals, share ideas, and build on our positive working relationships, in order to be ready to address future challenges as they emerge. We aren’t starting this process with predetermined outcomes. Instead, the outcomes should be developed by utilities and stakeholders working together in this collaborative environment outside of what can sometimes be a contentious contested case environment. Constructive dialogue and engagement from all stakeholders will be key to success.I would like to thank the Customers First! Coalition for its continued support of the Commission’s grid modernization efforts. Together, we need to remain focused on what our state’s utility customers need from their utilities now and in the future so that Wisconsin’s families and businesses will not only have basic needs met, but can grow and thrive. I look forward to meeting with many of you in the coming months as we discuss how to keep Wisconsin’s electric grid safe, reliable, affordable, and focused on the needs of Wisconsin’s utility customers.
New wind projects moving forward Several new wind projects that will benefit Wisconsin customers recently celebrated major milestones.EDP Renewables (EDPR) and Dairyland Power Cooperative celebrated the completion of the Quilt Block Wind Farm at a joint dedication event in Darlington, Wisconsin, on Friday, November 10. EDPR owns and operates the 98 megawatt (MW) Quilt Block Wind Farm, which is located in Lafayette County. Dairyland has a power purchase agreement in place with EDPR for the entire energy output of the wind farm that will produce enough clean electricity to power more than 25,000 households in Dairyland’s rural four-state service area.Quilt Block Wind Farm is EDPR’s first operational project in the state of Wisconsin and represents a capital investment of approximately $167 million (an estimate based on the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2015 Wind Technologies Market Report). At the peak of construction in early June, the project employed approximately 250 people, and as an operational wind farm, will employ 10 full-time workers.EDP Renewables will provide a total of approximately $23 million in land payments to participating landowners and neighbors throughout the life of the project. Through a revenue sharing agreement with the state of Wisconsin, EDPR will also pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to Seymour Township and Lafayette County each year.Wisconsin State Journal: Dairyland Power flips switch on Wisconsin’s fourth largest wind farmAlso in November, state regulators approved an application by Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) to own and operate its largest wind farm to date. The 66-megawatt (MW) wind farm will be located about 200 miles west of Madison near Saratoga, Iowa. The project advances MGE’s ongoing transition toward cleaner energy sources.
The company said the 13-square-mile site is well situated due to its strong winds and proximity to transmission infrastructure. The $107 million Saratoga Wind Farm will feature 33 turbines, standing nearly 500 feet tall.Wisconsin State Journal: MGE’s proposed Saratoga wind farm wins PSC nodBack in August, Invenergy and WPPI Energy announced an agreement that will advance plans for constructing the 132-megawatt Bishop Hill III Wind Energy Center in Henry County, Illinois.Bishop Hill III Wind Energy Center is scheduled to begin commercial operation by mid-2018 and will create more than 150 jobs during construction and up to six full-time jobs once operational. The project will generate more than $10 million in local economic development in its first 10 years of operation through tax payments, lease payments to participating landowners, and wages and benefits for employees.
WPPI Energy has entered into a power purchase agreement to buy the electricity from the facility through mid-2040 in order to serve its 51 member utilities and their customers across Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and Iowa.
2018 Power Breakfast Registration now open!The 2018 Customers First! Coalition Power Breakfast will be held in Madison on February 8, 2018, from 8 am – 11 am. We are pleased to announce that Katrina McMurrian, Executive Director of the Critical Consumer Issues Forum (CCIF) will present a keynote address focused on the topic of changing customer expectations. Look for more announcements on speakers and agenda to follow in January!Register today!