Call for Applications: Analytical Support for State Public Utility Commissions on Distribution Utility Planning and Distributed Energy Resources

August 4, 2017

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is initiating a three-year analytical support program for state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs will have access to in-depth analytical support from the national laboratories on topics related to distribution utility planning and regulatory, policy, programmatic, and technology assessments of distributed energy resources (DER).

The national laboratories will work with up to five PUCs over the course of one year, beginning in October 2017, to provide neutral decision support through data-driven modeling, tools, and direct technical assistance from subject matter experts.  Assistance may include: analysis support; stakeholder-convened discussions; education and training through workshops and webinars; and consultations with technical experts.

Application and Selection Process

State PUCs interested in receiving analytical support are encouraged to submit an application via contacts from the three national laboratories listed below.

Applications can be downloaded here. Prior to submitting a formal application, state PUCs are encouraged to talk with national laboratory contacts who can provide additional information and address questions related to time frame, budget range, and scope issues.

Applications for the first round of assistance are due by September 1, 2017.

During the month of September, the national labs will work with the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office to select up to five PUCs to work with, taking into consideration the proposed scope, project budget, and other factors, such as state PUC deadlines. PUCs will be notified upon selection and assistance will begin in October 2017.

Please submit pre-submission questions to:

Chuck Goldman
Elizabeth Doris
Juliet Homer

Submit applications via email before 5 pm ET to LBNL Electricity Markets and Policy Group,

Examples of Possible Topics for Analytical Support

Examples of possible topics for analytical support for state PUC requests include:

Distribution System and Resource Planning

  • Distribution system planning and oversight in a high DER future
  • Emerging trends in distribution planning (e.g., multiple DER and load scenario forecasts, hosting capacity analysis, locational net benefits analysis)
  • Treatment of distributed solar PV in electricity resource planning
  • Integrated resource, transmission and distribution planning
  • System adequacy - hosting capacity and smart inverter considerations/assessments
  • Grid architectural assessments for managing system complexity, defining platforms, enabling resilience and cyber security, and future-proofing investments via structural means
  • Planning for resilience with DERs - quantifying and capturing the value proposition

Regulation and Utility Business Models

  • Performance-based regulation in a high DER future: establishment of metrics and design of shareholder incentives to meet state policy goals (e.g., improvements in physical asset use, such as DER utilization, as well as process improvements such as predictable and timely interconnection processes)
  • Regulatory incentives and disincentives for utilities to make grid modernization investments needed to accommodate high levels of DERs
  • Roles of utilities and third parties in providing value-added services enabled by grid modernization, including the utility as a distribution system platform provider 

Rate Design and Ratemaking

  • Innovative rate structures for community solar, commercial/industrial customers with PV, or coordination of PV with behind-the meter DER assets including storage
  • Rate design issues for DER customers (e.g., design of time-varying rates and demand charges for DER customers; rate structures that separately price exported generation; linkage of rate designs/tariffs to valuation analysis of DER to grid and customers)
  • Distribution system pricing with DERs, both pricing of utility services to customers with DERs, as well as pricing of services these customers can provide to the utility system

Emerging Distribution Grid Technologies

  • Conservation voltage reduction
  • Integrated Volt-VAR optimization (IVVO) systems and Volt-VAR management applications (e.g., smart inverters, power flow controllers)
  • Storage and solar for system resilience and microgrids; distribution storage networks
  • Demand response as a flexible distribution system asset
  • Sensor/communication network platforms for distribution grid observability


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