• DER Technologies
  • Utility Customer Engagement
  • The Energy Cloud

Local Grid Modernization Effort Supports Customer Needs and a Cleaner Grid

Jessie Mehrhoff
Sep 06, 2018

Storage

This summer Washington, DC took a step toward realizing an updated electricity grid that will sustainably meet energy customers’ evolving needs. Following the 2015 launch of the DC Public Service Commission’s Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability (MEDSIS) initiative, six working groups are taking the next 9 months to develop recommendations for creating an interactive, reliable, and accessible local grid.

The MEDSIS vision aligns with what Guidehouse Insights refers to as the Energy Cloud. MEDSIS will move Washington, DC’s energy delivery system toward a mix of distributed energy resources (DER) and interactive smart grid solutions. Toward the end of August, I participated in the first meeting of the Customer Impact working group. While the group will work to ensure a beneficial MEDSIS transition for all Washington, DC energy consumers, such an undertaking promises exciting developments for residential energy customers as well.

Meeting Residential Customer Needs

The MEDSIS conversation surrounding customer impacts supports several of Guidehouse Insights’ utility customer solutions frameworks. Specifically, by working to foresee how a modernized grid will transform energy delivery and consumption in Washington, DC, the working group is trying to ensure questions of security, equity, and accessibility are addressed prior to project implementation. With careful planning, solution frameworks could conceivably evolve alongside the modernizing DC grid as follows:

  • DER optimization: If made accessible, optimized DER will become a means by which residential consumers can engage directly with the grid to generate cost savings and streamline the management of home energy use.
  • Community energy: Solar PV projects have come to Maryland and could soon align with a modernized Washington, DC grid. Community solar will enable renters and customers without optimal roofs to help DC achieve its renewable energy goals and lower electricity bills.
  • Smart home solutions: Already prevalent in some homes, these technologies will increasingly help residents interact with the grid to increase home energy resilience, convenience, comfort, and safety.
  • Mobility: An expansion of EV infrastructure could bolster EV and ridesharing options for commuters while providing backup storage to ensure grid resilience.
  • Lifestyle and care: The MEDSIS vision could potentially empower utilities to gain market share in residential solutions that address cybersecurity, health, HVAC, and other non-energy services.

What is happening in Washington, DC is just one example of how utilities might actualize these emerging business models. Better yet, grid modernization projects like MEDSIS are not unique to Washington, DC. States like California, New York, and Washington are working toward grid modernization in reliable, sustainable, and equitable manners. Earlier this year, Guidehouse Insights reported on how these solution frameworks will allow utilities worldwide to meet customer needs in regulated and deregulated retail choice markets.

What a Cleaner Grid Means for Local Customer Engagement

Washington, DC residents connected to the MEDSIS-envisioned grid will take pride in helping achieve the city’s Sustainable DC effort to securing 50% energy supply from renewable sources and a 50% total energy use reduction by 2032. However, a clean grid will not be the only reason that MEDSIS might improve utility customer satisfaction. The outcome of these initiatives will allow utilities to engage with customers across solution frameworks, moving interactions past the days of securing payment for electricity or troubleshooting outages. Accordingly, a modernized grid will result in a more engaged residential customer base. With increased flexibility embodied in the modern grid, utilities will be able to more creatively address the ever-changing desires of their residential customers.