FERC urged to boost smart grid tech

Source: By Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2020

A group of 13 Senate Democrats pressed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week to include incentives to boost smart grid technologies as part of its broader revamp of transmission benefits.

Led by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the bill looks to encourage more FERC action to help the deployment of smart grid technologies as a way to better leverage existing transmission infrastructure, in addition to the agency’s focus to incentivize more grid build-out.

Additional transmission deployment — be it through new infrastructure or smart grid technologies — remains critical for unleashing more renewable and energy storage electric generation to help move power from rural areas to more heavily populated corridors.

The concern from the senators, however, is that any new proposal may fail to recognize smart grid efforts.

“According to DOE, the U.S. currently lags behind a number of countries in the deployment of advanced transmission technologies in large part because of differences in regulatory environments,” the group wrote to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee on Aug. 7.

“Grid-Enhancing Technologies often cost a fraction of a transmission expansion, but are not being deployed because our current policies do not provide the same incentive for these new technologies as they do for more conventional options,” they said.

The group urged FERC to consider adopting performance-based standards for transmission incentives as a way to boost smart grid technology like “power flow control, dynamic line ratings, storage-as-transmission and topology optimization,” the senators wrote.

FERC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in March that looked to tweak the existing formula for return on equity (ROE) for transmission projects to make building out new infrastructure more financially attractive for investors.

That current ROE formula, the lawmakers warned, “are not likely to accomplish the Commission’s statutory obligation to encourage deployment of smart grid technologies.”