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Driving Environmental Outcomes Through Utility Reform

Driving Environmental Outcomes Through Utility Reform

Full Title: Driving Environmental Outcomes Through Utility Reform Lessons from New York REV
Author(s): Elizabeth B. Stein and Ferit Ucar
Publisher(s): Environmental Defense Fund
Publication Date: January 1, 2018
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

The economics that have driven America’s electric utilities have changed. For a century, utilities’ ability to make profit has depended on their investment in infrastructure, and their revenue has been tied to charging customers based on how much energy they use.

Yesteryear’s approach conflicts with today’s public interests—energy efficiency, less local air pollution, and decarbonizing our economy. It also conflicts with the technological advancements of the last several decades, which now allow energy to flow more freely through copper wires, much as data flows through the airwaves. Customers can now generate, store and even sell their own electricity. They are beginning to “see” their usage and make real-time decisions to change it.

None of this technological change reduces our need for affordable and reliable energy. Rather, in a warming world, that need has only increased. Major storms like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricanes Irene, Harvey, and Irma are painful reminders of how dependent our lives and economy are on electricity.

Around the United States, cities, counties, states and industry are investing billions of dollars into grid modernization efforts to improve resiliency and future-proof the grid from a mounting wave of disruptive technologies. Together, America’s grid upgrade projects will be the largest infrastructure investment in history.

These efforts have the potential to generate incredible environmental and public health benefits, from reductions in local air pollution to massive reductions in greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. None of these benefits are, however, guaranteed by a modern grid. They must be part of the plan, right along with resiliency and affordability.

The state of New York launched Reforming the Energy Vision (“REV”) to spark a transition of the state’s electric system to “achieve optimal system efficiencies, secure universal, affordable service, and enable the development of a resilient, climate-friendly energy system.”

This whitepaper examines the approach taken by the New York Public Service Commission (“NYPSC”) and sheds light on the elements that must be included for electric utility modernization efforts to yield maximum environmental benefits.

All statements and/or propositions in discussion prompts are meant exclusively to stimulate discussion and do not represent the views of, its Partners, Topic Directors or Experts, nor of any individual or organization. Comments by and opinions of Expert participants are their own.

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