By Michael Kuser
SOUTHINGTON, Conn. — Battery storage, energy efficiency and offshore wind dominated the discussion at the Connecticut Power and Energy Society’s Future of Energy Conference on Oct. 24, along with the question: Who pays for all this progress?
“Storage is fascinating. Like the shapeshifter, it can do so many things,” said Katie Dykes, chair of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.
The most cost-effective place to use and operate storage depends on the revenues being sought, Dykes said, noting that both a rate-based distribution plan and the wholesale energy market can provide a lot of services.
“We really need to get our distribution regulatory framework aligned with the wholesale energy market rules to knit together all those different values,” Dykes said. “Trying to get that price signal just right to help people value the benefits from these types of investments [and] doing that in a very holistic way is incredibly important.”
Anthony Marone, CEO of Connecticut-based utility United Illuminating, sees storage as working on both sides of the meter.
“Large-scale storage systems, regardless of who owns them, should be on the distribution side and controlled by the utility,” Marone said. “The stream of benefits should always be maximized for all ratepayers if they’re all paying for that.”
Marone also addressed the need to implement demand charges in planning for the increased use of electric vehicles. He noted that if EV adoption goes “through the roof,” the absence of such charges would mean utilities are “building a system and spending a lot of money where there’s no price signals that recognize that these things are having an impact on the system and everyone’s paying for it.”
Roger Kranenburg, vice president for energy strategy and policy at Eversource Energy, predicted that the coupling of electricity and transportation will change everything in the energy industry.
“The pie that we’re working on is no longer a slice of the pie; it’s the entire pie that we’re looking to modernize,” Kranenburg said. “Engineers love to complain, but they love challenges, and they usually solve them. Look at wind integration onto the system. The biggest challenge is regulators and companies working to balance who pays and who benefits.”
William Murray, vice president for state and electric public policy at Dominion Energy, which owns the Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut, said New England’s challenge lies in becoming more dependent on natural gas as the pipeline infrastructure appears incapable of being adequately fed or permitted to expand.
Despite the industry’s success in keeping wholesale energy prices low, “we notice that customers don’t really care about the subcomponents of their bill; they want to know what’s … the total bill,” Murray said. “There are times when our residential rates in Virginia and North Carolina are very competitive with your industrial rates [in New England].”
Bill Luchon, senior manufacturing engineer and environmental leader at Hartford-based manufacturer Legrand, said energy conservation at first offers a lot of “low-hanging fruit” but then gets harder.
Legrand has reduced its energy intensity by 48.5% since it joined a Department of Energy initiative for manufacturers in 2011, “which is pretty impressive,” Luchon said.
A few years ago, the company heard about a free industrial assessment audit by DOE, “and they identified a whole bunch of opportunities, which equated to about $55,000 a year in electrical savings for things that we wouldn’t even consider,” Luchon said.
New Haven Public Schools COO Will Clark said he oversees the system’s $400 million annual budget and $1.6 billion construction program. “When I save a million dollars in energy … that essentially goes to pay for teachers and for buying the textbooks,” he said.
Renewable energy, energy savings and carbon footprint reduction are all important to New Haven residents, so good publicity helps win official support for projects, he said.
“If I can get the mayor or the superintendent on [the front page of the newspaper], I get a project put forward,” Clark said.
Mark Wick, a partner in Energy Innovation Park, a $1 billion data center being developed in New Britain, pointed out the project will feature a 19.98-MW fuel cell microgrid. “That is an industry that is very aware of renewable energy … and the amount of energy used.”
Offshore Wind Savvy
Matt Morrissey, vice president of Deepwater Wind, said Connecticut “punched substantially above its weight” in the first round of procurement for offshore wind.
Connecticut officials in June announced they will purchase 200 MW of output from Deepwater’s Revolution Wind project, adding to Rhode Island’s 400-MW procurement. (See Conn. Awards 200-MW OSW, 50-MW Fuel Cell Deals.)
As a result of drafting behind larger procurement processes in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Connecticut obtained a 600-MW price for 200 MW of offshore wind and was also able to leverage Deepwater’s investment criteria, Morrissey said.
“On a job-per-megawatt-hour basis and investment-dollar-per-megawatt-hour basis, [Connecticut] actually beat both Rhode Island and Massachusetts,” Morrissey said. “Very savvy indeed for the state to do what they did.”
Deepwater will file for the procurement in the next few weeks, and the details will be public, Morrissey said.
Peter Shattuck, vice president for special situations at transmission developer Anbaric, said, “There are not a lot of great interconnection points to land 10 GW of new resources on the Eastern seaboard … so we have to think about how many lines we want to be stringing across the ocean floor.”
There is a potential to oversize the transmission grid in anticipation of the new resources and minimize the number of times needed to go through the complex planning process, he said. (See Anbaric Pushes Offshore Grid Plans.)
“The best economic results are where you plan for the wind, as in Texas … which has allowed them to put as much wind in their one state as we have all generating capacity in New England,” Shattuck said. “We know there’s a lot of offshore wind in Maine, but it’s not a big part of the mix right now. Why? Because we don’t have the transmission.”