• All about the humanity of communication.

    All about the humanity of communication.

What do utility resource planning managers and electric industry professionals have to say about the wholesale transformation that has been occurring in integrated resource planning over the past five years? Turns out, a lot.

While a number of reports and studies evaluate and record this transformation, these managers and professionals live it—every day. They experience exactly how that transformation affects their daily work lives, and how integrated resource planning has become more complex, wider reaching, and increasingly difficult. We know. We interviewed over three dozen resource planning managers, resource planning analysts, utility executives, and industry consultants from across the country to understand and report on their daily struggles. From those interviews, we wrote The Integrated Resource Planning Transformation study and report.

Through those interviews, we discovered that many disruptive catalysts converged to stimulate and energize this integrated resource planning transformation. The most prominent catalyst: the increasing influx of distributed energy resources (DERs) at the grid edge, especially from rooftop solar installations combined with their decreasing costs and statutory incentives. DERs, however, are far from the only disruption. A confluence of other catalysts undermines the integrated resource planning process:

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Net energy metering energized rooftop solar installations—and everything changed

Events in Nevada over the past three years shone a bright light on how net energy metering (NEM) has affected the evolution of distributed energy resources (DERs). Or would it be more accurate to call it the DER revolution?

Nevada: an insightful perspective. In December 2015, the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) cut NEM compensation by about one-third and instituted a monthly fixed charge. This new policy applied to both new and existing NEM installations, virtually all of which were rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

This decision significantly decreased NEM compensation while it also extended the payback period for a rooftop system. The consequences were quick and monumental. Immediately, the top three solar installers in the state announced their intention of moving to more “business friendly” states. It came as no surprise when rooftop solar installations dropped 92% in first quarter 2016. Nevada, once a darling in the solar sector, became a virtual wasteland.

Until the PUCN reversed itself.

Continue reading NEM Launched the Distributed Energy (R)Evolution

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A grid planning process strengthens Hawai‘i’s lead in developing a renewable energy grid

The Hawaiian Electric Companies have a plan. Their resource plan, filed in December 2016, outlines the near-term actions for attaining 100 percent renewable generation in their service area by the state’s mandated goal of 2045; the most ambitious—and only—such plan in the country.

In July 2017, the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission (HPUC) formally accepted this December-filed resource plan—their Power Supply Improvement Plan (PSIP), which was updated from a previous PSIP filed in April 2016.

Broad, inclusive participation. Both PSIPs were created in an open, collaborative process that included multiple participants and intervenors admitted into the docket. These participants were directed to “propose questions and suggest alternative modeling inputs, assumptions, methods, and analytical approaches” that Company planners must consider to incorporate into the resource planning process.

Selecting generation resources. Company planners ran production simulations using optimized candidate resource plans that incorporated distributed energy resources (DER), demand response programs, and other resources; then analyzed system security requirements to ensure system reliability. From the final results, they developed near-term (2017–2021) action plans that encompass renewable acquisitions, grid modernization, DER policies, environmental compliance, and system security improvements.

In the aggregate, these action plans add enough rooftop and feed-in tariff solar generation combined with large-scale solar and wind to attain a 52% RPS by 2021.

Continue reading The Hawaiian Plan: 100% Renewable Energy by 2045

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Achieving a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 drives this California initiative

Creating an Integrated Resource Plan is a formidable challenge. I know; I’ve helped create and write several IRPs during the past decade that each followed a process developed 25 years ago. This is why the process currently being proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) staggers me.

Typically, IRPs created by a utility or a load serving entity (LSE) focus on providing reliable, affordable power for their service area and customers. While these IRPs comprise a wide range of generation, costs, transmission and distribution, and service, they are isolated plans.

The CPUC proposes to elevate all that. Its proposal involves an iterative process to compile individual IRPs into one statewide resource plan—in other words, a resource plan using the state as its service area. This process seeks to balance the individual loads, generation resources, planning perspectives, power grids, and other aspects of each LSE—large and small, public and private—into one cohesive direction that focuses energy generation in the state.

Senate Bill 350, which initiated the CPUC proposal, requires an IRP development process that meets California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets. The upshot, however, requires a modernized grid to transmit increasing amounts of renewable energy. Among many other goals, SB 350 calls for 50% renewable generation by 2030, essentially doubling current output. The pending SB 100 ups the ante by requiring 60% renewable generation by 2030 and a non-mandatory 100% by 2045.

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Greenhouse gas emission reductions, cost, and reliability are the drivers

Regulatory officials in California are raising the bar on integrated resource planning, taking it to a more efficient and effective level.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), together with the California Energy Commission (CEC), is guiding a process that helps each load-serving entity (LSE) collectively meet statewide energy, social, and environmental goals.

CPUC staff have issued a proposal for implementing integrated resource planning across the state. This proposal, created with input from the LSEs, outlines a structured process for LSEs to develop IRPs and for the CPUC to review these IRPs. The CEC has also drafted IRP submission and review guidelines specifically for publicly owned utilities. These proposals must first by adopted by the Commissioners before taking effect.

How is the California IRP process different? From its very foundation, the IRP process being developed in California lays a stronger foundation than those employed by virtually any other state. Here are eight such building blocks:

  1. The IRP process uses greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, cost, and reliability as drivers for deriving the amount of renewable energy in the resultant generation mix.

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An actual conversation I had recently at a business organization meeting

He took my arm firmly, pulling me aside for a private conversation. I had been standing in a small circle with colleagues, talking, at a business organization meeting when he accosted me.

“So,” he started. “I understand you work with electric utilities.” More of a question than a statement.

It all happened so suddenly that I just looked at him. “Have we met?” I asked, mainly to gather myself.

“No,” he said, then introduced himself. I returned the favor.

“I know who you are,” he continued. “You used to sit on an energy-related committee with my wife.”

“And she is…” I ventured.

He told me. Different last name. But now I understood the connection. They modernized older properties, and one of their initiatives is to lower the energy requirements of the buildings by integrating renewable resources and energy efficiency measures.

“Ah. Yes, I work with electric utilities.”

“Around renewable energy?”

“Mainly around integrating more renewable resources into the electric grid.”

“So you know a lot about rooftop solar photovoltaic panels?”

Continue reading Net Energy Metering: An Honest Story

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I have a social media habit. But it’s not the kind of habit you might think. It doesn’t encompass my every waking hour. I engage once in the morning and then pretty much leave it alone after that. Here’s what I generally do every day.

First, I start with Facebook. I scroll through to find anything interesting, especially posts from my three kids. Then I check out LinkedIn. Who’s invited me to connect? Who’s endorsed me? Who’s looked at my profile? I check out an article or a random post.

social-media-as-chaosI don’t muck much with Twitter except to search on #stcorg and #stc13 . After looking at these two searches, I usually just close it. I might check out Instagram, but usually only because one of my children has posted there. Next, I check out the ST C Board of Directors site to read any new posts. And I check my iPhone to see if there is any pushed content I find interesting.

One morning, though, things were particularly active. I kept getting new posts all over the place. Bing here, ping there, bop over there. (Ok, not audibly; metaphorically, but you get the idea.) I could barely keep up. For some reason that I didn’t totally fathom, I wanted to check them all out. It quickly became took much, moving back and forth, forth and back, that it all became, well … chaotic!

When that thought hit me, it just brought everything to a halt. Is social media just chaos, and we’ve all been sucked in to the flurry? While my computer and smart phone kept pinging and popping, I began to wonder. What if social media is a manifestation of the chaos theory? Well, that just might explain a lot.

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Whether you are growing, changing, or introducing new business technologies, a communication audit is helpful, if not essential

A Communication Audit. This is a comprehensive, systematic evaluation and analysis of your company’s communication. A communication audit unveils what is guava-tree-fieldtruly happening as opposed to what is thought to be happening. It:

  • Encompasses the activities conducted in a communication assessment and its resultant findings (although here it is more robust).
  • Identifies the people who create the messages and information being communicated.
  • Evaluates the clarity and value of the communication.
  • Critically looks at the various methods of communication (such as Web sites, newsletters, emails, blogs, videos, and other publications, as well as interpersonal skills and managerial communication), pinpointing problem areas and identifying successes.

A communication audit must be thoughtfully planned and implemented, and the results carefully assessed to achieve the greatest impact.

The Scope of a Communication Audit. You can focus on a number of communication areas to evaluate and analyze. This focus can be the broad-based communication for the entire company or for an individual division or group. It can be a specific communication method (such as interpersonal communication or your internal Web site) or for a specific vehicle (such as your corporate publications).

Continue reading A Communication Audit Helps You Communicate Better

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Conduct a Communication Assessment to determine the quality of your communication before spending the time and money required for a more comprehensive Communication Audit.

Since the most successful companies communicate well, understanding how your communication is working and how it might work better is critical to achieving this success. Flawed communication leads to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, mistakes, low morale, higher turnover, decreased sales, and lower market valuation; whereas effective castle-stream-rightcommunication leads to lower turnover, greater contributions, increased total shareholder value, and stronger market valuation of your company.

Communication is a complex process with many potential pitfalls that can be identified and corrected.

There are two methods to determine the quality of your communication; a:

  • Communication Assessment (a short, pointed process)
  • Communication Audit (a comprehensive, far-reaching process that encompasses the activities of a communication assessment)

Both strategically evaluate and analyze your company’s communication; both form the basis for a Communication Plan. A communication assessment is a fixed-cost alternative that quickly gives you a bead on your communication efforts, which helps you determine if you need to spend the time and money necessary to conduct a more comprehensive communication audit.

A Communication Assessment. This closed-end, short-term process focuses on the quality of your communication: how employees at all levels feel about your internal communication, its content, and the distribution vehicles.

Continue reading Evaluate and Analyze Your Communication with a Comprehensive Assessment

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A numerical perspective on the benefits of effective communication

Employees feel disconnected in companies with poor communication. Why effective communication is needed in a workplace without it:

humphreys-signs40%: Employees who feel disconnected at work.

67%: Workers who do not identify with or are motivated to help the company attain its business goals and objectives.

25%: Employees who show up just to collect a paycheck. (1)

49%: Employees who feel their company is open and honest in its communication.

55%: Employees who feel that senior leadership only talks at them, but doesn’t listen to them.

51%: Employees without a channel to communicate up the corporate organizational chart. (2)

Benefits to companies that communicate better. Company that communicate effectively enjoy these statistical benefits over firms with poor communication:

30: Percent increase in market valuation. (3)

57: Percent higher in total return to share-holders than companies that communicated least effectively.

Continue reading Communication by the Numbers

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