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RTO Insider: Gatekeeper or Facilitator? FERC Panels Debate EDCs’ DER Role

Posted by Rory D. Sweeney and Rich Heidorn Jr. on Apr 11, 2018

RTO Insider and Utility Dive both reviewed highlights from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's technical conference on distributed energy resources (DERs) April 10-11. The principle debate centered on "whether electric distribution companies (EDCs) should serve as gatekeepers or facilitators for resources seeking to participate in energy markets." (RTO)

Generally "distribution utilities and state regulators argued they should have authority to control the interconnection and output of DER aggregations to ensure they do not threaten the reliability of the power system. DER providers stressed that those processes should be transparent and should not prevent market participation on non-reliability grounds." (UD)

RTO Insider quoted AEE's expert testimony:

Maria Robinson, director of wholesale markets for Advanced Energy Economy, said distribution companies “should be facilitators, not a gatekeeper … preventing the ability of [DER] aggregators to enter.”

She suggested EDCs identify zones that can absorb DERs without reliability problems. If they are to review DER applications, EDCs should be given deadlines requiring them to act quickly, and rejected applicants should have the right to appeal to the RTO/ISO or FERC, she said.

“The vast majority of issues should be worked out with the interconnection agreement” between the resources and transmission operator, she said, adding that reviews should be done only once for each interconnection."

Representatives from Edison Electric Institute and East Kentucky Power Cooperative indicated concerns about system disturbances, and retaining "authority to protect their systems to avoid imbalances on distribution feeders," and that "state regulators should have the ability to 'opt out' from allowing retail customers to participate in wholesale markets."

Expert panelists noted the importance of information sharing and operational coordination between utilities, DER providers and grid operators. And grid operators warned about threats to system reliability.

Utility Dive also shared AEE's perspective:

Distribution utilities should be "facilitators, as opposed to gatekeepers," said Maria Robinson, director of the wholesale markets program at Advanced Energy Economy, a clean energy trade group. "From a DER aggregator's perspective, they just want to ensure that the distribution utility is not serving as a gatekeeper and preventing the ability to enter the market."

Regulators should consider time limits on reliability reviews for DER aggregations, Robinson said, so they are not used as a barrier for market entry. And utilities could outline reliability directives for DERs in their interconnection agreements, she suggested.

"As to what Chairman Hall was saying, the PUC is involved in that process," Robinson said. "It's not as important to him the specific timeline — whether it's when interconnection happens or when they join the wholesale market — but I think allowing the opportunity to join the wholesale market should be a given for these resources as they join the grid."

See the full Utility Dive story, "Utilities, DER providers face off over market access at FERC meeting," here and RTO Insider's piece, "Gatekeeper or Facilitator? FERC Panels Debate EDCs’ DER Role" here (sub req.).

Topics: United In The News