Carolina's group calls for major changes the electric power model

Originally published at Charlotte Business Journal

Kevin Elkins, Senior Staff Writer Charlotte Business Journal

A Carolinas utility trade association is calling for fundamental changes in the industry.

The N.C. Utility of the Future Steering Team issued its report after two years of work saying it’s “time to evolve” to allow for such things as customers selling privately generated electricity to the grid.

There's a new report out that calls for changes in power generation in North Carolina. THINKSTOCK.COM

There’s a new report out that calls for changes in power generation in North Carolina.THINKSTOCK.COM

Sponsored by E4 Carolinas and the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center at UNC Charlotte, the steering team wants a large-scale change in the way N.C. utilities are regulated. The idea is to move toward a more efficient and equitable system that allows for better use of all energy sources.

David Doctor, CEO of E4 Carolinas, says the “Shared Perspectives of the North Carolina Electric Utility of the Future Steering Team “white paper” calls for the first changes in power system rules in about the last decade.

The report is “the most significant comprehensive thought process toward evolving North Carolina’s electric utility industry since development of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard concluding in 2007,” Doctor says.

The way power is regulated, distributed and paid for is out of date, the report says. Those policies and practices were created in the 20th century when utilities were struggling to keep up with increasing power demand.

Now that technology and green energy have entered the arena, the state needs to move toward a 21st century model.

“Significant improvement in the economics of generating technologies such as solar, microturbines, and fuel cells have made bi-directional power flows a practical reality, potentially creating grid integration challenges for these distributed energy resources,” the report states.

The report also calls for a slide scale of power pricing that depends on the time of day that the electricity is consumed. That price would depend on the cost of actually producing the kilowatts of power.

“The incremental cost of electric service is highly variable depending on the place and time the energy is generated or consumed,” the report says.

A spokesman for Duke Energy Corp. acknowledges that customers want “more options and convenience” while depending on the company to provide “reliable and affordable” services.

“We agree that new technologies will enable a smarter energy future, and look forward to continuing our work with all stakeholders to advance those approaches in the Carolinas and across the other states we serve,” the spokesman says.