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IREC publishes guide for assessing economic and environment benefits of distribution grid upgrades

The guide includes key principles and an evaluation checklist for proposed grid upgrades and investments that can enable the addition of resource including battery energy storage by utilities. Image: Southern California Edison.

A new guide has been published in the US to “help stakeholders assure prudent use of funds by electric utilities” when it comes to upgrading the distribution grid, from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and GridLab.

Called the GridMod Playbook, an abbreviation of its full title: A Playbook for Modernising the Distribution Grid; Volume 1: Grid Modernisation Goals, Principles and Plan Evaluation Checklist, the publication is intended as a toolkit for stakeholders to evaluate and ensure that proposals to modernise the US grid have a meaningful impact and will be done efficiently.

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Intended as the first volume in a series, the document has been developed by IREC, which provides state-by-state regulatory policy engagement and best practise resources, together with GridLab, which offers technical expertise and services. It includes principles for modernising the grid as well as an evaluation checklist and builds on a concept developed at an accelerator programme hosted by the Colorado-headquartered Rocky Mountain Institute think-tank.

“Grid modernisation plans and investment proposals are complex regulatory filings, full of technical jargon and acronyms,” Curt Volkmann, president of distributed energy consultancy New Energy Advisors and one of the report’s co-authors, said.

“The Playbook helps demystify these plans by providing a clear evaluation framework, assessment questions, glossary of terms and specific examples for easy reference,” Volkmann, who himself was a distribution grid planning engineer for California utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) back in the 1980s, said.

It discusses how states and utilities alike are seeking to modernise their grids, and implementing new distributed grid technologies via strategic investment, as well as enabling the greater integration of distributed energy resources (DERs), including electric vehicle charging infrastructure, energy storage, solar PV, demand response and so on. However, not all proposed investments might be beneficial, or warranted, “either from an economic or carbon reduction standpoint,” a press release sent to today said.

One of the report’s two other co-authors, Sara Baldwin, VP for regulatory affairs at IREC – and a regular Guest Blog contributor to this site – said the Playbook “will help stakeholders and regulators determine whether or not grid modernisation plans and investments are compatible with and supportive of critical public policy objectives—including the expansion of renewable energy, the decarbonisation of the electricity system and the beneficial electrification of the transportation and building sectors”.

“This new resource will help stakeholders assure prudent use of funds by electric utilities, which are proposing investments that add up to tens of billions of ratepayer dollars in the coming years,” co-author Ric O’Connell, who is executive director of GridLab, said.

The GridMod PlayBook is available at the IREC and Gridlab websites, with the pair set to host a webinar, 20 May to run through some key points and answer questions.

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