Two main topics came up at NARUC that I think are necessary to highlight: Reliability and investment in transmission & distribution. These ideas are related but each can be approached in different ways. This is why I like conferences like the NARUC Policy Summit who provide a space for new and innovative ideas to surface and be presented to regulators.
Reliability is a major focus as we see increasing risk of natural disasters impacting services and increased demand from consumers as the nation moves to electric vehicles and other new electric-hungry technologies. This means making the energy grid resilient and reliable by improving current infrastructure and building new is a key focus of regulators like state commissions and the FERC. This also impacts large industrial customers; Google being a notable attendee at NARUC. Google’s Global Regulatory Lead, Briana Kobor, highlighted the concern of industrial customers who consume enormous amounts of electricity, stating that Google consumes roughly three times as much energy as the city of San Francisco every year. More and reliable transmission of electricity is key to their future plans for growth.
Tangentially, this means investment in transmission & distribution infrastructure is key for the future. Also called T&D, these assets are top priorities for any company interested in the electric industry. Distributed Energy Resources, increased demand from current generation assets, and improving the resiliency of current infrastructure is necessitating increasing investment in T&D. One gap I noted during the conference was any reference to monitoring these assets once they are in place. How do we ensure that 1) companies ARE investing in T&D and 2) are efficient in maintaining it? I really think this is where HData can be a major partner to the industry. Take this example:
This visualization from HData’s Explorer tool highlights the transmission expenses, regional market expenses, and regional market assets owned and operated by most of the RTO’s and ISO’ in the United States as reported to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The numbers in 2021 for transmission expenses for these six companies are a combined 33% higher than 2010 when adjusting for inflation (69% in nominal terms). Every company in this list barring NYISO saw noticeable increases in expenses, pointing to upstream development of more transmission infrastructure to maintain.
Finding insights like this by comparing companies is key to ensuring that regulators and the companies themselves are staying on top of the industry, ensuring its future success.