The Utility's Future

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Repairing secondary service lines

The City of Ashland Electric Utility (Utility) distributes a combination of power from local generation and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).  The Utility focuses on providing power in a safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible manner.

Current State:
The Utility operates within an interconnected northwest regional power supply system.  Power is generated locally and externally (BPA).  BPA uses transmission systems (BPA, Pacific Power) to supply power to the Utility.  The Utility uses its distribution system to deliver the combined local and external power to the residents, businesses and to the entities within the urban growth boundary.

The electric generation, transmission and distribution industries are in an evolutionary period.  While the details of the industry's future are still developing, the need to reduce carbon emissions is advancing these industries.  supporting and prescribing the changes are federal (PURPA​1, Clean Power Plan), regional/federal (Seventh Northwest Power Plan- Northwest Power and conservation Council), state (SB1547 also know as "Coal to Clean"), industry economics, technology, and community expectations.

Current trends supporting the revolution and helping to move the electric utility industries forward are:

  • a) conservation efforts (e.g. energy efficiency) - which reduce consumption
  • b) demand response initiatives - which reduce capacity requirements
  • c) availability of renewable resources - increasing capacity/displacing carbon based power
  • d) developing technologies that integrate new resources (demand response, intermittent/variable renewable resources, storage) into the power supply chain
  • e) developing/emerging balancing markets/associations - enabling a broader use of intermittent generation resources

While the Utility does own and operate generation resources (small hydro and solar) and does acquire excess generation from customer owned solar installations through a net metering rate, the Utility is primarily a distribution utility.  To meet the balance of the Utility's power requirements, the Utility contracts with BPA for generation and transmission services.  The Utility is in a seventeen year, take of pay contract with BPA (expiration September 30, 2028).  BPA acquires and plans its own generation resources.  BPA owns/acquires, plans, manages and operates its own transmission resources.

The Utility's own generation resources combined with BPA resources provide the Utility with twenty-five percent zero carbon power (eighty-five percent hydro, ten percent nuclear).  The remaining five percent is variable sourced by BPA with market contracts (small hydro, wind, biomass, gas, other).  Over the past five years the Utility has purchased qualifying renewal energy credits (RECs) in an effort to match the five percent variable supply from BPA.  Through the combination of generation sources and RECs the Utility has provided the benefits of nearly one hundred percent carbon free energy.

Ashland's projected energy consumption is flat to slightly up (one-half to one percent).  This is consistent with regional and national trends.  Since approximately 2007 the Utility has met any new consumption needs through conservation (efficiency) and the installation of local solar resources.  Northwest regional planners anticipate conservation and demand response can provide the growth needs for the region for the next twenty years2.   The Utility currently supports ongoing conservation (efficiency) but does not have any developed demand response resources.

The Utility (and industry) is continuing to migrate away from a simpler distribution utility to a more complex integrated utility.  The future of the Utility is being shaped by the need for more conservation (efficiencies), gaining capacity through demand response and the incorporation of more distributed energy resources (DER - such as solar and storage resources).  Other forces shaping the future are the economics of power generation, governmental requirements and community expectations.

Future State:
While the future is not certain, Ashland's integrated Utility will operate in an environment where existing zero carbon generation (BPA, solar, other ) continues to play a key role but is blended with alternative grid attached and local resources (generation and storage ).  The integrated Utility will experience a collaboration with customers where customers loads are more flexible and consumers are more empowered to make energy usage choices (consumption, demand response, generation).  The integrated Utility will incorporate both grid based and local energy choices.  The Utility will use distribution technology(smart grid, advanced metering infrastructure - AMI) to empower both the utility and consumers to plan, manage and more efficiently/effectively use electric energy.

The changes will not occur overnight.  The Utility (with the rest of the industry) is moving through a continuum of technologies, economic values, and consumer expectations where consumption changes as information and collaboration grow and where resources are developed and technology expands to provide additional economic value.

As the Utility has done in the past, the Utility will navigate the technologies, economics and customer expectations with a focus on providing safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electric services.

The attached "Outline of the Future of the Electric Utility" present an overview of the current and future state of the Utility.  The outline also provides a description for the transition from current ot future state and the barriers, hurdles and issues facing the city';s electric utility.

"The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) was implemented to encourage..

  • 1.  The conservation of electric energy,
  • 2.  Increased efficiency in the use of facilities and resources by electric utilities,
  • 3.  Equitable retail rates for electric consumers, " --What is a Qualifying Facility, (n.d), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), https://www.ferc.gov/industries/electric/gen-info/qual-fac/what-is.asp, Accessed 05/17/2016

Summary of the Key finding and Resource Strategy of the Seventh Plan, (n.d.), Northwest Power and conservation
Council, http://www.nwcouncil.org/media/7150142/ppseventhplansummary_032816.pptx, Accessed 05/16/2016.

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