Think of distributed generation as apps for a new era of energy, says Audrey Zibelman, chair of the New York Public Service Commission.
Utilities have to boldly experiment with their business model and their grid intelligence to help accelerate the energy revolution and flowering of those apps, Zibelman told the Gridwise Architecture Council’s Transactive Energy System conference in Portland.
Audrey Zibelman // Martin Rosenberg
Zibelman is at the helm of New York’s REV energy transformation. That effort was spawned by a rash of destructive storms in recent years that spurred consumers and political leaders to demand a more resilient grid, Zibelman said.
That has been folded into a broader campaign to get the state to slash carbon emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels and transform a generation fleet to one that gets half its electricity from renewables by 2030.
Utilities must learn how to grow financially in new ways – and not continue to depend on ever expanding capital expenditures, she said.
“We as regulators need to allow them to experiment for success as well as failure,” Zibelman said. “We are only doing to learn by doing,” Zibelman said.
One overriding challenge for all promoting change is that the typical American consumer spends just 1 – 5 percent of their income on energy, she said. Consumers, however, are rightly “terrified” of losing power in a time of increasingly disruptive weather calamities, she said. “We tried to leverage that.”
Post Hurricane Sandy and other violent storms, Main Street New York came to champion microgrids and other new approaches to the energy ecosystem.
“We need to think about how to engage folks to develop the market,” Zibelman said.