Informing U.S. Electricity Policy: Independent Data-Driven Policy Tools to Support Regulators, Policy Makers, and Utilities
Taylor, Alyse Michelle
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Electric grids are undergoing unprecedented changes to accommodate increased social demand for sustainability, better economics, improved reliability and greater efficiency. These transformed grids, or grids in transformation, are often referred to as “Smart Grids”. Achieving the objectives of the Smart Grid will allow the grid to be more flexible and autonomous; enabling it to better use current resources and respond to the needs of consumers. The objective of this dissertation is to study and understand U.S. Smart Grid progress, identify problems in Smart Grid development, and propose data-driven tools to help utilities and regulators address those problems. Three tools are proposed in this research (1) a Smart Grid development metric and (2) an electric utility business model framework and (3) an electric utility business model financial tool. The dissertation is split into three segments. The first segment of the dissertation assesses U.S. Smart Grid progress based on information gathered directly from industry stakeholders. In that assessment eight areas were studied in depth and seven key recommendations were made. The second segment of the dissertation addresses the first recommendation identified in the Smart Grid assessment; a lack of specific Smart Grid goals and success metrics. This dissertation presents the Smart Grid development metric as a potential solution to this problem. The development metric solution is composed of twelve indicators that comprehensively measure Smart Grid progress either over time or in comparison to other nations/states. The third segment of the dissertation addresses the second problem identified; determining the appropriate way to calculate the costs and benefits of renewable generation and Smart Grid technology. The changes prompted by the Smart Grid challenge many of the traditional electric utility methods for conducting business. This dissertation work creates an electric utility business model framework as a potential solution to this problem. The electric utility business model framework is intended to help utilities determine new ways to create value around Smart Grid technology and opportunities. The electric utility business financial tool is intended to assist utilities in understanding the possible financial implications of the new value streams generated from the electric utility business model framework.