WASHINGTON STATE

HOUSE DEMOCRATS

Morris bill prepping for the electric grid of the future passes House

OLYMPIA (WA) – How and where electricity is made is evolving quickly and utilities need to prepare for that change, according to Washington state House Rep. Jeff Morris.

A bill (HB 1126) sponsored by Morris (D-Mt. Vernon) to start that process passed unanimously off the House floor Monday.

Morris said distributive energy systems such as solar, electric vehicles and home energy management systems are changing the electricity grid before our eyes.

Ratepayers can’t afford an organic and reactive planning process that uses the most expensive solutions in the marketplace to accommodate individual choices when they reach critical mass. States like Hawaii have seen the kind of rate shock that happens when the market is unpredictable.

“By utilities planning and predicting what types of resources we will individually purchase, we can see where and when the highest value is to use them to keep our electricity rates down,” Morris said. “Instead of rooftop solar generating electricity during the day when no one is home, you might place your solar in a community solar system where people park their electric vehicles.”

This is cheaper than buying energy storage and other technologies to accommodate the imbalances on the distribution electric grid caused by these technologies, according to Morris.

“We have to start preparing for the future so that not only consumers, but also our utilities, are in a position to take advantage of distributive energy,” Morris said.

With edge computing and artificial intelligence, 80 percent of the decisions of where the most value in energy rates will happen is in homes and neighborhoods.

For the most part, utilities base their billing on the volume of electricity sold. As solar and other alternative distributive energy sources come online, they affect how much traditionally produced energy is for sale on the market. With less sales revenue to invest in new infrastructure is dwindling. Instead of kilowatt-hours over a month, a consumer may purchase electricity from the grid as a service just as a user purchases movies on-line today.

In addition, more energy efficient appliances, conservation and other technologies are reducing the volume of energy sold.

“It’s these kinds of consequences from the new energy economy that we must plan for now,” Morris said.

The bill now goes to the Senate for that chamber’s consideration.