Case Studies

Overview

In 2020 the Oregon Public Utilities Commission partnered with Gridworks to develop a transparent, robust, and holistic regulatory planning process for electric utility distribution system operations and investments. Under the distribution system planning investigation (docket UM 2005), Commission Staff led an inclusive stakeholder process to foster shared learning on distribution system planning practices and develop a common vision and principles for distribution system planning. Gridworks supported the Commission’s success by designing and facilitating a series of 12 workshops and webinars with robust stakeholder participation, and contributing to the resulting guidelines.

The Challenge

Historically, utility investments in the distribution system were determined with little public engagement or oversight. Moreover, those investments were typically engineered to support one-directional flow of power and communication, and serve predictable load patterns. Over the past decade, these historic practices have been challenged as customers increasingly adopt technologies like rooftop solar and electric vehicles, while communities demand more choice in their energy future. These trends have called utilities to open their decision-making processes to the public, while challenging regulators to facilitate more transparent, robust and holistic stakeholder processes.

Approach

Over nine months, Oregon PUC Staff and Gridworks completed the following process to advance the investigation goals.

Outcomes

This initiative led to the following outcomes:

  • Broad stakeholder support for new Commission rules stemming from 12 engaging webinars

  • Comprehensive, staged approach to Distribution System Planning reform, adopted unanimously by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission

  • Industry leading Community Engagement Plan, advancing equity and community needs through a new, open distribution system planning process

The outcomes fulfill the Commission’s goal of establishing a transparent, robust and holistic regulatory planning process for electric utility distribution system investment and operations.

Overview

In 2019, California’s energy agencies partnered with Gridworks to facilitate the Vehicle-Grid Integration (VGI) Working Group and advance the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy. As facilitator, Gridworks engaged stakeholders from a variety of agencies and organizations to identify and report on opportunities to use electric vehicles for cost and emissions reductions within the power sector.

Landscape

In pursuit of a carbon-neutral economy, California set a goal to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road and 250,000 charging ports in service by 2030. The state also emphasized that accelerating vehicle grid integration would reduce costs or mitigate cost increases for all ratepayers that might otherwise emerge as a result of increased usage of EVs.

Vehicle Grid Integrationntegration offers numerous potential benefits, including:

  • Accelerating the adoption of EVs through incentives that lower the total cost of vehicle ownership for both individual owners and fleet operators.

  • Reducing costs to electricity ratepayers by reducing power transmission congestion and the need for costly distribution system upgrades, as well as reducing the need to invest in new fossil-fuel electricity generation.

  • Incentivizing increased decarbonization of the electric sector by expanding the use of clean energy and providing renewable grid services.

Because VGI represents a historical merging of the clean transport and clean energy sectors, the Working Group needed to build consensus among an extensive group of stakeholders to realize these benefits.

Approach

The VGI Working Group engaged experts from over 80 organizations to identify the value of a wide range of VGI use cases, then to develop and vet policy recommendations. Over a ten-month period, Gridworks—together with the California Public Utilities Commission and the state’s three major utilities—led an intensive series of workshops, subgroups, dialogues, and solicitations of Working Group members.

A central challenge of VGI—the need to integrate across multiple sectors—was reflected in the diversity of the Working Group’s participants, which included electric utilities, community choice aggregators, EV manufacturers, charging providers, government leaders, and advocacy and research groups.

Outcomes

This initiative led to several achievements in support of Vehicle Grid Integration, including:

  • Identifying more than 300 different VGI use cases potentially able to provide value by 2022.

  • Developing 92 individual recommendations for policy actions to immediately begin realizing the value of VGI.

  • Assessing opportunities and stakeholder interests across a full range of sectors and applications

  • Influencing a comprehensive, unanimous policy decision by the California Public Utilities Commission that is strongly based on the Working Group’s results, launching California’s VGI future less than six months after the conclusion of the Working Group.

Overview

In 2019, PG&E partnered with Gridworks to facilitate discussion and collaboration among diverse stakeholders, including gas workers and environmental and consumer advocates. This assembly—the Gas Transition Group—worked together to achieve a common goal: a just, measured transition of the gas system that would protect customers from unreasonable cost increases, advance social equity, and ensure the safety of utility workers and the general public.

Landscape

California’s commitment to the decarbonization of its economy by 2045 raises fundamental questions about the future of its utility gas systems, which are the source of at least 50 percent of the state’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. A 2019 analysis performed on behalf of the California Energy Commission warned that without a transition plan for a low carbon future, rates for customers remaining on the gas system could rise from about $1.50 per therm today to as much as $19 per therm by 2050. Compounding the potential for unacceptable rate increases, the lack of a transition plan for the gas system puts the security of low-income customers and critical utility workers at risk.

Approach

Prompted by these circumstances, PG&E, California’s largest gas utility, organized the Gas Transition Group and contracted Gridworks to facilitate discussion, collaboration and the development and distribution of policy recommendations.

Over a six-month period, Gridworks and the Gas Transition Group worked together to:

Outcomes

This initiative led to a number of achievements towards a more equitable, affordable, decarbonized and smaller gas system transition, including:

  • Reaching consensus among 14 diverse organizations previously at odds to jointly promote gas transition policies

  • Engaging more than 250 thought leaders and policymakers to promote the California’s Gas System in Transition report.

  • The California Public Utilities Commission adopting the primary recommendation of our report, the initiation of long-term gas system planning, through policy action in just 4 months.

With ongoing support from Gridworks, PG&E’s Gas Transition Group continues its collaboration and development of regulatory frameworks for long-term integrated gas system planning and targeted electrification, promising continued progress toward its goals.

Overview

In 2018 the Building Decarbonization Coalition partnered with Gridworks to develop A Roadmap to Decarbonize California’s Buildings, a path forward for California to assertively, efficiently, and equitably decarbonize California’s buildings. The Coalition, including industry, advocacy, government experts, and private sector leaders, worked together to determine its shared goals and priorities. Gridworks facilitated their successful collaboration and produced the resulting Roadmap.

THE CHALLENGE

At least 26% of California’s end use greenhouse gas emissions are produced in buildings, primarily in heating space and water. While the state has made significant progress removing emissions from power generation through a transition to clean energy, progress from the diffuse and challenging building sector has been limited. In 2018, a plan for tackling this challenge was needed. The plan needed to advance the use of clean, renewable electricity in buildings, taking the place of emissions from burning conventional gas. The strategy needed to educate customers, equipment and service providers, and policy-makers on why building decarbonization was imperative and why they should act now to address the challenge.

APPROACH

The Building Decarbonization Coalition was conceived to unite building industry stakeholders with energy providers, environmental organizations and local governments to help electrify California’s homes and workspaces with clean energy. The Coalition partnered with Gridworks to develop the plan it needed: a Roadmap which would meet the challenge facing California head on, immediately begin to impact policy-making, and be supported by a diverse group of stakeholders. Over a four-month period, Gridworks and the Building Decarbonization Coalition worked together to meet this need using the following process:

OUTCOMES

This initiative led to a number of achievements in support of building decarbonization including:

  • Reaching agreement among 60 diverse Coalition member
    organizations previously at odds to jointly promote building decarbonization policies.
  • Spawning 45 local building codes as of October 2020 in favor
    of building decarbonization by California policy-leaders.
  • Referenced by leaders in New York, Colorado, Massachusetts,
    Washington, among other states, as a catalyst to their
    own local decarbonization progress.

The Building Decarbonization Coalition continues to use the Roadmap to guide its priority actions. In 2019 and 2020 Gridworks continued its partnerships with the Coalition, developing the Coalition’s Decoding Grid Integrated Buildings Report and Decoding Building Decarbonization Research Agenda.

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