California’s Distribution Resource Planning Five-Year Retrospective

Five years ago this month, in August of 2014, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) opened a landmark Rulemaking (R.14-08-013) to explore new policies and methodologies for better incorporation of distributed energy resources (DER) into the electric utility system.  In this series of articles, Gridworks explores the intentions and outcomes of this multi-year effort, with interviews from key participants in the Distribution Resource Planning (DRP) process and related initiatives.  Aside from market forces propelling a significant change in utility operations, the necessity of a new planning framework for DER was also evident in order to achieve three parallel goals recognized by the CPUC: 

1) to modernize the electric distribution system to accommodate two-way flows of energy and energy services throughout the IOUs’ networks;

2) to enable customer choice of new technologies and services that reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and criteria pollution and improve reliability in a cost-efficient manner; and 

3) to animate opportunities for DERs to realize benefits through the provision of grid services.

Establishing this new framework required years of dedicated cooperation and sometimes frustrating friction among California’s regulatory, utility, environmental, academic and emerging-industry players. Significant progress has been made, yet the effort is ongoing.  While much remains to be done, this anniversary provides a good opportunity to review what has been accomplished and determine what still needs to occur and how best to proceed.  

To provide perspective for that task, this project tells the story of California’s five-year history with distribution planning through the eyes of those who initiated, implemented, and endured it. What has been gained will be celebrated, what has been lost will be memorialized, and what remains will be furthered. Most importantly, for the dozens of states just beginning their  journey into the heart of distribution planning, this project will aid your navigation.

This DRP Retrospective will be published in seven parts between August 28 and September 18 and memorialized here.

Gridworks acknowledges the following individuals for their contributions to this effort: 

Interviewees: President Michael Picker (CPUC, retired), Paul de Martini (Newport Consulting), Ted Ko (Stem), Sky Stanfield (IREC), Scott Murtishaw (California Solar and Storage Association), Damon Franz (Tesla), Bill Peter (PG&E), Erik Takayesu (SCE), Lorenzo Kristov (CAISO, retired), Merrian Borgeson (NRDC). 

Authors and Editors: Arthur O’Donnell, Marc Monbouquette (EnelX), Matthew McDonnell (Navigant), Michael Colvin (EDF)