Utilities across the country are experimenting with various new ways to communicate with customers—from Twitter feeds to text alerts. But few utilities have figured out how to integrate new media...
Consensus building is an imperative and educational art form.
had used the right assumptions.
Stakeholder workshops were convened at each of five stages in the one-year solar study. As many as 50 stakeholders were in the room at any one time. In addition to APS and ACC, the participants ranged from the Arizona Department of Commerce and American Solar Electric, to SunEdison, the National Renewable Energy Lab, Electric Power Research Institute, and Lennar Homes.
The process began with the characterization of the solar resource and key solar technologies, specifically the technical attributes and future potential of three solar DE technologies: photovoltaic, hot-water heating, and daylighting. The characterization was subsequently used—in building-block fashion—to assess the value of solar DE on the distribution system, the transmission system and the generation system, respectively. The next step consolidated total system value and created an aggregate business case for solar DE.
The technical nature of the work required a range of experts be brought into the facilitation process to educate, build trust, dispel myths and sort out misunderstandings. Among the most contentious issues to solve were the widely varying assumptions about the uptake of new technologies by customers and in turn how much solar growth APS could expect based upon assumptions of future declining costs of PV systems. A second key issue was the value of solar in meeting peak demand. Peak solar and peak load aren’t coincident in the APS service territory; solar peaks at roughly 1 p.m. in the summer, while load peaks between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. The importance of this differential isn’t easy for non-technical stakeholders to understand or appreciate. The common viewpoint is that since solar is putting all that energy into the system, the utility should be able to spend less money on its system. Through charts, graphs and data, the experts were able to prove to all parties that the capacity value of solar DE is less than it would be if the two peaks were coincident, and that storage could enhance its capacity value.
To be successful, stakeholder collaboration requires time, persistence and consistency. As in the case of APS, multiple workshops have the advantage of building momentum and a sense of teamwork. Starting with dozens of smart people with a diverse set of opinions and an initial sense of distrust, full, open and methodical discussion paid off. By the collaboration end, all involved had a clear sense of where everybody stood and were comfortable with the approach taken for value assessment of solar DE. APS had a methodology that was transparent, and one it could use with assurance going forward.
ComEd: Smart-Meter Startup
Regulators have become a driving force behind stakeholder collaboration. In the fall of 2008, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) directed ComEd to include a stakeholder-collaboration process as an integral part of its initial AMI installation. Recognizing that interdependencies among stakeholders only would grow with the functionality of intelligent metering, the ICC wanted to bring the disparate parties into the early planning process, to avoid downstream conflict and possible paralysis. The result was a diverse group of 70 to 80 stakeholders brought together in