Member Spotlight: Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

About Public Utilities Commission of Ohio:
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) affects every household in Ohio. That’s because the PUCO regulates providers of all kinds of utility services, including electric and natural gas companies, local and long distance telephone companies, water and wastewater companies, rail and trucking companies. The PUCO was created to assure Ohioans adequate, safe and reliable public utility services at a fair price. More recently, the PUCO gained responsibility for facilitating competitive utility choices for Ohio consumers.

About PowerForward:
A number of states across the country – including California, Illinois and, perhaps most notably, New York – are undertaking utility grid modernization and business model reform initiatives, and, as of April 2017, you can add Ohio to that list.

A new initiative from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, called PowerForward, aims “to chart a path forward for future grid modernization projects, innovative regulations and forward-thinking policies” that can be incorporated into utility business practices.

The initiative, one of PUCO Chairman Asim Haque’s central goals since being appointed leader of the regulatory body last spring, is scheduled to span three key phases, beginning in April and continuing into late 2017 or 2018.

The kick-off conference, A Glimpse of the Future, on April 18-20 featured presentations from national utility experts to give Ohioans a glimpse of what the energy future could be. The list of speakers from the three-day event included industry experts from Schneider Electric, Siemens, GE Grid Solutions, American Municipal Power and the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.

The aim of the conference was to examine technologies affecting a modern distribution grid, what our future grid could offer consumers and what technologies are in development to realize such enhancements. The three-day event of phase one will help regulators determine the vision for the PowerForward docket ahead of the second phase of the proceeding, scheduled for July, where regulators will address which technologies will be necessary to make the vision a reality.

In the third phase of the proceeding, currently scheduled for late fall 2017, regulators will address how reforms to utility rate designs, revenue models and other business practices could deliver on the goals of the docket.

At the end of the three phases, PUCO intends to release a document outlining how regulators envision the future of the state’s power grid, potentially including recommendations for utility reforms and changes to state law.

According to PUCO Chairmain Asim Haque, PUCO is going into this process with no preconceived notions of what grid modernization will mean for utility and regulatory models, but Haque expects that the PUC will try to encourage “optionality” in future utility offerings, in accordance with the wide range of needs and desires that utility customers have.

Ultimately, with PowerForward, PUCO hopes that the expertise of many stakeholders can enhance the consumer electricity experience and help better frame the grid of the future.

If you’re interested in following the PowerForward proceedings, you can sign up for email updates here. PowerForward will also be livestreamed on the PUCO website and is available to the public.

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In 2017, SGCC will be recognizing a member monthly, providing an organizational profile and highlighting the member’s accomplishments and output in the smart grid space. Order of recognition is random and all full and affiliate members will receive a spotlight.