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GridSolar works to be Maine smart grid coordinator

State's big utility CMP asks PUC to deny firm's bid

Rockville, MD (March 17, 2015) – GridSolar filed an exception to a February Maine PUC examiner's report, Steve Hinchman, the firm's general counsel, told Smart Grid Today – the leading independent, daily, professional news journal of the smart grid industry – recently. Smart Grid Today publisher Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc. is sharing the story here, free of charge.

The report recommended against designating GridSolar as Maine's smart grid coordinator and the exception constituted a continued bid to coordinate and oversee the state's non-transmission power efforts.

The examiner's report, written by PUC staff, was meant to offer guidance to the PUC on upcoming matters. Deliberations on the GridSolar question have not yet been scheduled, though Hinchman said he expects them to take place by next month.

Under PUC approval, GridSolar piloted its approach to cutting peak power demand in Boothbay, Maine, where it used solar power, energy storage and AC units that run at off-peak times to cut the peak power demand for the peninsula in the summer. The firm has three additional transmission projects undergoing PUC review.

GridSolar in 2013 petitioned the PUC to be designated as Maine's lead smart grid coordinator, responsible for assessing non-transmission utility projects and proposals. The firm would be independent of transmission utilities and act to find non-transmission solutions.

The Maine PUC in 2010 approved a Central Maine Power (CMP) settlement plan to combine a smart grid program run by GridSolar with the utility's proposed transmission upgrades to improve power flow across the state (SGT, 2010-May-17).

But in February, CMP, Maine's largest electric utility, filed its own comments to the examiner's report, saying GridSolar does not back a deliberate and measured approach to smart grid implementation, as called for in the state's Smart Grid Policy Act. The 2010 act requires new transmission project proposals to include an evaluation of equivalent non-transmission projects.

"GridSolar proposes that the state leap headlong into the full implementation of its business plan, which includes a vast array of services that fall outside of the proper role of a smart grid coordinator," the utility said. "GridSolar proposes nine services of the smart grid coordinator: continued operation of the Boothbay Pilot Project, non-transmission assessments, grid targeting of energy efficiency and conservation, construction and operation of a non-transmission operations center, rate design proposals, public education, pricing trials, market segmentation and monitoring new technology.

"GridSolar hasn't demonstrated that customers want and will use the services identified in its business plan," the utility said.

Though it recommended against appointing GridSolar, the examiner's report did recommend the commission appoint a non-utility to coordinate and oversee the state's non-transmission power efforts.

"Notwithstanding our denial of the GridSolar petition … we find that there can be benefits from the presence in the state of a nonutility entity with the relevant expertise and a commercial interest in the development of (non-transmission alternatives)," the February examiner's report said.

Hinchman agreed the coordinator role shouldn't be filled by a utility.

"It would be in everyone's interest to have someone commercially independent in that role because that leads to full, fair, complete and ambitious investigation of non-transmission solutions," Hinchman said. "You could order utilities to do it, but even the best intentioned utility employee would be looking for ways to lower their company's return, so that isn't a reasonable expectation.

"Our petition calls for an independent entity do it and we'd be that entity, as we've built up the institutional expertise," Hinchman said. "Every time we find an option, it would go out to bid."

The coordinator would act to create a smart grid marketplace in Maine and to grow that marketplace to compete with utilities to provide grid-reliability services, he added.

CMP disagrees that a third-party, non-transmission coordinator appointed by the PUC would benefit the state, it said in February. A utility could carry out the non-transmission assessment role in cooperation with the Efficiency Maine Trust, CMP added.

Efficiency Maine is the independent administrator for energy efficiency programs in Maine and is governed by a stakeholder Board of Trustees with oversight from the PUC, the Efficiency Maine website said.

This story was originally published in Smart Grid Today (http://ow.ly/KplNZ) March 11, 2015 and has been slightly edited for this format. To read more articles like this one, sign up for a Free Trial to Smart Grid Today.

ABOUT SMART GRID TODAY

Smart Grid Today's mission is to deliver daily, unbiased, comprehensive and original reporting on emerging trends, applications and policies driving the modern utility industry – in a signature format our founders have developed over decades in the trade news business, featuring highly concise and easy-to-understand news copy based on trusted reporting, exclusive interviews, informed analysis and strategic insights that our subscribers rely on to succeed every business day. Smart Grid Today is published by Modern Markets Intelligence, Inc.

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