The Perfect Power Seal of Approval
- Written by John Kelly
The Galvin Electricity Initiative is developing a seal of approval for smart grid projects modeled on the LEED program for green buildings and the EPA’s Energy Star program. The idea is to encourage project developers to keep customer satisfaction front and center.
As the U.S. moves toward a more intelligent, cleaner electricity system, consumers expect measurable and specific improvements, as well as greater choice in the type of power they use and how they use it. Until now, consumers have been passive participants in the power system.
The nonprofit Galvin Electricity Initiative and energy researchers have found that consumers expect grid modernization efforts to:
- Avoid causing harm, eliminate interruptions and improve power quality
- Enable and encourage consumer and community participation
- Increase system efficiency and significantly reduce environmental impacts
- Be cost-competitive, with greater transparency
While significant advances in grid modernization have been made, until now there have been limited performance measures or outcomes that either provide evidence that investment is producing results or enable consumers to rate supplier performance. The trademarked Perfect Power Seal of Approval™ (PPSoA) program was developed by the Galvin Electricity Initiative to fill this gap.
The PPSoA is a performance rating program designed to stimulate power system transformation based on consumer needs. Modeled after the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, the PPSoA program will evaluate and recognize the nation’s top-performing smart microgrid projects in key consumer-focused categories: reliability, consumer empowerment, efficiency and environment, and cost. It is the first assessment that brings together and evaluates these four key areas of performance.
Projects that meet or exceed the required score in one or more categories will be awarded specific category seals. Projects that excel in all four categories will be awarded the full Perfect Power Seal of Approval. Because the initiative’s vision of power system transformation revolves around community-based microgrids, these will be the first types of projects to be evaluated in the pilot phase. As the stakeholder process continues to grow, the PPSoA program will expand to consider additional types of projects, such as those developed by universities, developers, vendors and others.
The PPSoA's four consumer-focused categories are based on consumer research and project studies along with input from mayors and other community-based stakeholders. What follows is a general overview of the evaluation criteria for each category seal.
Reliability Category Seal. Projects will need to track and trend safety incidents, keep the duration and frequency of outages below the national average and track and trend momentary outages and power quality events.
Consumer Empowerment Category Seal. Projects will need to ensure that customers have direct access to real-time usage data, dynamic pricing, ancillary service payments and alternative purchasing options, including renewable energy suppliers.
Efficiency and Environment Category Seal. Projects will need to maintain minimum efficiency levels in power supply and building efficiency, based on a recognized standard such as the EPA Energy Star, as well as assess ways to reduce solid waste, water consumption, harmful air emissions and other impacts on the community.
Cost Category Seal. Projects will need to keep costs below the national average, separtately track and trend each link in the cost element (generation, distribution, operations, maintenance, investments, repairs and other waste) and develop plans—with community input—for local improvements.
The Initiative will also offer professional certification on the PPSoA categories and metrics for reference and adoption by stakeholders who are interested in a framework for consumer-focused grid modernization. On an ongoing basis, the initiative is encouraging projects in the development stages to incorporate the seal criteria into their planning process.
In addition, the metrics can be used by regulators as standards for evaluating utility smart grid projects. State and local officials, as well as consumer groups, can use the metrics to hold utilities accountable to consumer needs, and utilities and independent system operators (ISOs) can use the metrics as a goal for their own projects or ongoing operations.
The beta version of the metrics and scoring system were developed by an advisory committee that includes experts in various sectors of the industry, including power distribution, utility benchmarking, environmental advocacy, green buildings, product safety and other relevant areas. In April 2011, the Initiative made official their partnership with safety certification organization Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The two organizations are joining forces to develop Version 1, to leverage a broader stakeholder process and to implement the PPSoA program.
The performance ratings will help consumers and suppliers better understand their options for improving electricity service. By focusing on consumer needs at the system design level, projects can maximize their investment and gain consumer buy-in. These projects will serve as prototypes for stakeholders across the country to model system reform. As more consumers push for local and state restructuring, entrepreneurs can develop applications that allow consumers to optimize their electricity use to best meet their needs.