By: Asim Z. Haque, Chairman, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
We are on the cusp of true transformation in the electric industry. Technology exists today that can change the way we use energy at work and home. Homeowners are increasingly trying to make their homes “smarter”, electric vehicle sales are rising and businesses are asking how they can self-generate or buy clean power.
You do not need to look outside Ohio to see the change coming. AEP Ohio is shifting its focus to cleaner energy and rolling out a fully smart grid, Smart Columbus has received high profile federal funding and The Ohio State University is rethinking how it manages and delivers power to its campus.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) understands that change is coming, and has launched an initiative to get ahead of this wave. PowerForward is the PUCO’s deep dive into “grid modernization” and how innovation can serve to enhance your electricity experience. We recognize the desire for more technology with our smart phones and groundbreaking services like Siri, Alexa and 1-hour shipping, but equivalent strides in innovation have not made it to the electric sector yet.
For the last year, the PUCO has been hosting national and state energy experts to help shape this discussion. With a comprehensive grid modernization policy in place, Ohio’s utilities will be able to provide advanced services that can bring far more value and options to customers.
Perhaps the most well known “smart grid” technologies are digital meters. These meters communicate with customers and utilities in real time and collect data that customers can leverage for their benefit about their energy usage.
Imagine a business plugged into its energy consumption and knowing exactly how much it costs to run the air conditioner or other machinery during a particular period of the day.
Imagine an integrated smart home experience, with items like the smart thermostat adjusting temperature based upon living preferences. Imagine a home being able to self-generate power and eventually store it in a battery. Imagine owning an electric vehicle charging station that can not only charge an electric vehicle, but also serve as a distributed energy resource that can balance voltage levels on the local grid.
In actuality, we do not have to imagine these technologies because they exist today. Through PowerForward, we hope to take a step toward making these technologies available throughout Ohio and create a regulatory roadmap for innovation a reality for customers.
The PUCO wrapped up the third phase of PowerForward last month. Six days of discussions served to bookend 100s of hours of public discussions with 126 energy experts on how government regulations can facilitate a smarter grid.
Looking forward, my fellow commissioners and I are hard at work translating these discussions into a long-term policy that will guide Ohio’s electric grid for decades to come. Stay tuned for more PowerForward updates in 2018.
Every minute of PowerForward is available on the PUCO’s YouTube channel, with additional resources available on PUCO.ohio.gov
Asim Haque is chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.