Wired Group associates are proud of the contributions they are making in the field of safe, reliable, and affordable electricity distribution. Most of our work is in the public domain, and links to some of our more noteworthy public contributions are provided below.
Florida Storm Protection Plans -- A Bonanza for Utilities, A Bust for Consumers and the State
This whitepaper authored by Wired Group associates Paul Alvarez and Dennis Stephens was commissioned by AARP as a counterpoint to 10-year storm protection plans developed by Florida's four large investor-owned utilities. The Plans, which will cost $18.9 billion and increase the average customers' electric bill from $229 to $351 annually by 2029 (depending on utility), were approved by the Public Service Commission despite multiple violations of Commission rules for such Plans. The Plans feature no estimates of post-storm restoration improvement, no performance accountability, and no vision for the future. No utility's Plan will underground more than a few percent of its distribution lines, and there is no opportunity for the Commission to disqualify any Plan spending as imprudent -- an essential consumer protection.
Challenging Utility Grid Modernization Proposals
In this two-part article published in Public Utilities Fortnightly in August and September of 2020, Wired Group associates Paul Alvarez, Sean Ericson, and Dennis Stephens address abuses of the public trust the authors are finding with increasing frequency in utility grid modernization proposals. Part 1 challenges substation asset replacement approaches based on subjective measures of historical stresses. While these approaches increase asset replacement rates, and are touted by utilities and their consultants as emerging best practices, there is no research indicating they are more cost-effective than the existing, objective asset testing practices in place for decades. Part 2 calls for standardization in reliability-related benefit-cost analyses. It describes issues with the U.S. Department of Energy's Interruption Cost Estimator most utilities use to translate reliability improvements into economic benefits; challenges the economic stimulus effect of grid investment; and makes the case for including carrying charges in cost estimates. Part 2 also includes the 2019 update of the Wired Group's annual Customer Value Ranking.
The Rush to Modernize: An Editorial on Distribution Planning and Performance Measurement
This article authored by Wired Group associates Paul Alvarez, Sean Ericson, and Dennis Stephens was published in Public Utilities Fortnightly in July, 2019. Using publicly-available FERC Form 1, EIA Form 861, and JD Power and Associates data analyzed by Utility Evaluator software, the article documents poor results from recent grid investment increases by US Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs). Nationwide data indicates that neither reliability improvements nor cost savings have materialized despite a dramatic increase in grid investment. The article describes emerging best practices in distribution planning and performance measurement, and cites their promise as potential cures. The article also incorporates the release of the Utility Evaluator's 3rd annual Customer Value Ranking of US IOUs. The annual ranking compares outcomes, as measured by reliability and customer satisfaction, to inputs, as measured by rate base and O&M spending per customer, for each of 104 US IOUs with all four data points. Full rankings for multiple years can be accessed at www.utilityevaluator.com.
Modernizing the Grid in the Public Interest -- Getting a Smarter Grid at the Least Cost for Customers
This white paper, authored by Wired Group associates on behalf of GridLab, describes the most common deficiencies found in utility smart meter and grid modernization plans. It also offers tips on distribution planning processes, and helps stakeholders understand what needs to be done to ensure the economic benefit potential of smart meter and grid modernization investments is maximized for customers. Patterned after a similar white paper on grid modernization in Virginia, it is targeted to South Carolina stakeholders and includes a critique of Duke Energy's 2018 Grid Improvement Plan.
Critique of Misdirected Grid Spending on Behalf of Consumer and Environmental Advocates
In this project funded by GridLab, Wired Group principals testified before the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) on behalf of a coalition of consumer and environmental advocates led by the Southern Environmental Law Center. Duke Energy proposed to spend $2.4 billion to upgrade its grid with little to no regard for stakeholder interests. Wired Group principal Paul Alvarez testified that the proposed investments would not deliver benefits in excess of costs, and that stakeholder engagement in grid planning was superficial. Wired Group principal Dennis Stephens testified that many proposed programs should be rejected entirely due to a lack of cost-effectiveness or a lack of compliance with standard industry practices, and that other programs be reduced or refocused to better align with stakeholder goals. (NCUC E-7 Sub 1214)
Modernizing the Grid in the Public Interest -- A Guide for Virginia Stakeholders
This white paper, authored by Wired Group associates on behalf of GridLab, preceded the South Carolina whitepaper and served as a model for it. Focused on Virginia, the whitepaper included a critique of Dominion's 2018 Grid Transformation Plan. The white paper was widely read in Virginia, and featured prominently in testimony sponsored by Appalachian Voices and the Southern Environmental Law Center in SCC Case No. PUR-2018-00100. The SCC rejected without prejudice most of Dominion's Grid Transformation Plan as unreasonable and imprudent.
Arguments to Increase Stakeholders' Roles in Grid Modernization Planning
In this testimony on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, Paul Alvarez argued that increased stakeholder engagement in distribution planning would result in grid investments more closely aligned with customer, community, and environmental goals. The testimony was submitted in response to Duke Energy's proposal to invest $13 billion in grid modernization over 10 years with little regard for consumers, or for capabilities designed to accommodate increases in renewable and distributed generation. (NCUC E-2 Sub 1142)
Arguments in Favor of Cost-Effective, Reliable Accommodation of Distributed Energy Resources
In this testimony on behalf of The Utility Reform Network in Southern California Edison's 2018 rate case, Wired Group associates identify the root causes of Distributed Energy Resource (DER) reliability challenges, and provide cost-effective alternatives to accommodate high levels of DER. (CPUC A16.09.001)
Evaluation of Duke Energy's Ohio Deployment for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
Wired Group principals and associates conducted a mid-deployment review of one of the larger U.S. smart grid deployments for one of the more forward-thinking regulators in the U.S. The evaluation incorporated a cybersecurity review, benefit quantification, organizational performance review, and project progress audit. (Ohio PUC 10-2326-GE)
Evaluation of SmartGridCity for Xcel Energy
Wired Group principals and associates evaluated the costs and benefits (economic, reliability, and customer experience) of various smart grid capabilities for this smart meter and distribution automation demonstration project covering 46,000 customers in Boulder, Colorado. (Colorado PUC 11A-1001E)
Arguments Against Cost Ineffective Smart Meter Deployment -- Massachusetts
In this testimony on behalf of the Attorney General in Massachuetts' Grid Modernization Plan proceedings, Wired Group principals and associates describe the pre-requisites for a smart meter deployment to deliver a favorable benefit-cost ratio for customers, highlighting the shortcomings of certain time-varying rate offers, capacity market designs, and ratemaking processes in a retail choice state. (Massachusetts DPU 15-120)
Arguments for Cost-Effective Integration of Distributed Energy Resources
In this testimony on behalf of The Utility Reform Network in Pacific Gas & Electric's 2017 General Rate Case, Wired Group principals and associates describe cost-effective approaches to grid planning for distributed energy resource (DER) integration, as well as appropriate allocation of costs between DER owners and ratepayers. The Wired Group also presents PG&E's historical capital investment trends relative to US investor-owned utility averages. (CPUC A15-09-001)
Arguments Against Cost Ineffective Smart Meter Deployment -- Kentucky
In this testimony on behalf of the Attorney General, Wired Group principals and associates critique the size of benefits estimated by Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric in their proposal to deploy smart meters. The critique highlights typical deficiencies the Wired Group has observed in smart meter benefit-cost analyses, including long benefit periods, aggressive conservation and revenue assurance benefits, customer exposure to rate case timing issues in periods of falling operating costs, and similar issues. (Kentucky PSC 2016-00371 & 2016-00371)
Review and Synthesis of Available Research on Smart Grid Customer Benefits and Costs
In this secondary research project conducted on behalf of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, the Wired Group summarized research on the benefits of various smart meter and distribution automation capabilities (including direct and indirect economic, reliability, environmental, and customer choice benefits) and related them to costs in an easy-to-use "per customer" format. A companion guide, Technical and Economic Smart Grid Concepts for Consumers, was also developed as part of the project.
Proposal to Introduce Performance-Based Utility Compensation
In this testimony on behalf of the Coalition for Utility Reform, Wired Group President Paul Alvarez outlines the rationale and structure for distribution utility performance measurement and performance-based compensation before the Maryland PSC (Case 9361).
Proposal to Use Smart Meter Data to Address Multiple Sources of Cost Shifting
In this testimony on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, Wired Group President Paul Alvarez describes why and how smart meter data should be used to address multiple sources of cost shifting between and among rate classes, and particularly for customers with PV solar systems, before the Kansas Corporation Commission (Docket 15-WSEE-115-RTS).
Integrated Distribution Planning: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Wired Group President Paul Alvarez authored this article published by Public Utilities Fortnightly in November, 2014. The article was further honored internationally by being republished in the ICER Chronicle in April, 2015.
Maximizing Customer Benefits: Smart Grid Performance Measurement and Action Steps
Wired Group President Paul Alvarez authored this article published by Public Utilities Fortnightly in January, 2012.
Buying Into Solar: Rewards, Challenges, and Options for Rate-Based Investments
Wired Group President Paul Alvarez authored this article published by Public Utilities Fortnightly in December, 2009.
Unleashing latent value in distribution utility businesses
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