Wednesday, October 20, 2010


SMART GRID: Read the fine print

By Henry Curtis

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) wanted to build a 138-kV Transmission Line on Wa`ahila Ridge (1971-2002). After the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) said no to the use of conservation land, HECO proposed the alternative 46-kV East Oahu Transmission Project (EOTP) in urban east Honolulu. Life of the Land (LOL) intervened. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave the okay to the project.

Earlier this year HECO asked the PUC for permission to alter Phase 2 of the project though the use of  SMART GRID technology. The PUC agreed on October 19.  In their ruling, the PUC determined that Smart Grid technology will increase reliability which might or might not allow for more renewables on the grid. Furthermore, the PUC ruled that the reason more renewables can’t get onto the grid is because of reliability issues and not because of HECO resistance.

The following are excerpts from the decision.

“LOL's Position

LOL filed its Statement of Position ("LOL's SOP") on July 14, 2010. LOL recommends that HECO's Application be rejected. LOL contends that: 'HECO is asserting that the reason to install Smart Grid technology is to strengthen reliability and not to allow increased levels of renewable and distributed energy. That approach is so fundamentally wrong, so old-school thinking, that it should be rejected by the [c]ommission.'

In the alternative, LOL recommends that if the commission decides to approve the Application, then HECO should be required to meet additional reporting requirement: 'If the [c]omission does approve this Application, they should require [HECO] to file reports every six months with the [c]ommission on how this project has impacted the grid integration of renewable and distributed energy. Specifically, as the Feed-In Tariff program progresses, does this Smart Grid technology allow for greater, lesser or the same amount of grid integrated renewable and distributed energy.' ...

Discussion ...

With respect to LOL's concerns regarding HECO's use of smart grid technology and whether the proposed design serves to increase interconnection of renewable and distributed energy, the commission notes that primary purpose of EOTP Phase 2 is to improve system reliability. Although certain smart grid initiatives may serve to increase the penetration of renewable resources such as solar or wind resources, EOTP Phase 2 Modification's use of smart grid technology is designed to address grid reliability issues in a more cost-effective manner. EOTP Phase 2 Modification is not expected to have a direct impact on the integration of renewable and distributed energy resources in the near term.

This, however, does not mean that the EOTP Phase 2 Modification will prevent HECO from adding additional renewable and distributed energy onto its system. There is no evidence in this docket that the proposed redesign will prevent or limit the grid integration of renewable and distributed energy. In fact, the installation of SCADA equipment and smart grid technology may potentially help to facilitate the interconnection of renewable energy resources in the future by enabling HECO to capture load information on circuits automatically and on a timelier basis."

As HECO continues to develop new opportunities that will to help increase penetration of renewable energy and meet its Renewable Portfolio Standards, it also must address technical issues that limit the ability of the grid to handle additional renewable resources such as solar or wind."

Henry Curtis

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