The basic structure and rules for the electric grid are surprisingly similar to those when it was first built in the 19th century. This is why the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has undertaken a process, PowerForward, to develop new rules for a modern electric grid. To that end, it recently released its summary report on grid modernization in Ohio.
As the grid developed and expanded across the country in the 20th century, centralization was essential to bringing down the cost of service. Even today, most of the electricity we use is generated remotely and brought to population centers via high-voltage transmission lines. From there it is distributed to customers. Each element of the electrical grid is centralized, limiting choice and participation by us, the consumers. But the way we deliver electricity is changing. Distributed solar energy, wind energy, smart meters, demand management, and electrical storage are changing our electrical grids and raising questions about the rules that manage them.
The commission has been holding a series of meetings over the last two years to hear from stakeholders what the future of the electrical grid in Ohio should look like. More than 100 experts were asked to testify across three phases. The full proceedings have been preserved and are available for viewing on the commission web page. The roadmap covers many topics including hardware and technology, rate structures, storage, and even the role of electric vehicles.
While comprehensive, the report itself is non-binding. Any decisions that could impact solar homeowners will have to be decided through a docket. Dockets are similar in structure to court cases. Supporting and opposing sides of the issue have an opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses. These public dockets also include opportunities for the public to make their voices heard. We expect the first of these dockets to begin in early 2019. We’ll be sure to keep Ohio’s community of solar supporters up to date about opportunities to ensure our solar rights are protected.