Technical Assistance to State Public Utility Commissions

The State Technical Assistance to Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) program is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Grid Modernization Initiative funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office as well as the Office of Electricity. The program is offered in conjunction with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The goal of the program is to provide high-impact, in-depth technical assistance to help state regulators address a wide variety of challenges facing the electricity industry.  Many of the challenges are associated with rapid technological advancements, the emerging roles of both customers and third-parties in the generation and management of electricity, the convergence of operations, markets, and planning across the bulk-power and distribution system domains, and considerations for addressing the climate crisis and enhancing the equity, affordability, security, and resilience of the electric grid. Examples of possible areas where state regulators may need technical assistance are provided below (see Potential Topics for Technical Assistance); however, there is no constraint on what PUCs may wish to propose or what DOE will consider. Details regarding the criteria DOE will use when selecting technical assistance project proposals are also provided below (see Application Selection Criteria). 

DOE intends to fund selected technical assistance project proposals received from state public utility commissions (see Application Submittal details below). To support PUCs as they develop their application materials, a public webinar and a series of virtual office hours are being provided (see Application Development Support below). The types of technical assistance offered and activities supported include: technical analysis through the use of National Laboratory staff and their modeling capabilities; reports or white papers; stakeholder-convened discussions; education and training through workshops and webinars; and consultations with topical experts.  Technical assistance can be provided to state regulators and their staff for 12-24 months, depending on the request. 

This program augments and complements current technical assistance activities undertaken by various DOE program offices. 

How to Apply for Technical Assistance

Please review the application process details below.

Application Submittal

The application submittal period ended on September 28th, 2021 and no further applications will be accepted at this time.

If PUCs want to prepare responses to the application form prior to submitting it, then they can use this editable MS Word draft application form and subsequently transfer the responses from the editable MS Word draft application form into the online application form to submit it.  Only online application forms submitted by 5 PM EDT on September 28, 2021, will be considered.

Once you have submitted your online application form, your PUC will be notified within 3 months whether or not it has been selected to participate in the program and receive technical assistance. DOE envisions, subject to appropriations, that there will be a second round where applications for technical assistance will be accepted from state PUCs, which will likely occur during the second half of 2022.

Application Development Support

A public webinar, jointly hosted by DOE, the National Labs, and NARUC, held on Thursday, August 26, 2021, can be viewed here. The presentation slides can be downloaded here

There will also be a series of virtual office hours where applicants can get answers to more specific questions concerning their unique proposals.  In order to access the virtual office hours, you will need to reserve a 30-minute slot during one of the five dates.  To reserve your slot, click on the date you are interested in from the list provided below and then select from the list of available time slots.  You will then receive a calendar entry with credentials to access the office hours during your time slot.  Please note that virtual office hours are scheduled on a first-come-first-served basis.

  1. Thursday, September 2, 2021, from 9-11 AM EDT
  2. Tuesday, September 7, 2021, from 2-4 PM EDT
  3. Tuesday, September 14, 2021, from 1-3 PM EDT
  4. Wednesday, September 15, 2021, from 2-4 PM EDT
  5. Tuesday, September 21, 2021, from 4-6 PM EDT
  6. Wednesday, September 22, 2021, from 4-6 PM EDT

Any additional inquiries about the technical assistance program and the application process can also be directed to the program’s dedicated email account TAtoStatePUCS@lbl.gov or to any of the National Laboratory contacts listed below: 

Peter Cappers PACappers@lbl.gov (315) 637-0513
Juliet Homer Juliet.Homer@pnnl.gov (509) 375-2698
Michael Ingram Michael.Ingram@nrel.gov (303) 275-3231
Todd Levin TLevin@anl.gov (847) 644-2052
Thomas Harrison HarrisonTJ1@ornl.gov (865) 241-2991

Potential Topics for Technical Assistance

Examples of possible areas where state regulators may need technical assistance are provided below; however, there is no constraint on what the state commissions may wish to propose or what DOE will consider:

Regulation and Utility Business Models, for example:

  • Analyzing regulatory incentives and disincentives for clean energy investments, grid modernization investments, and equitable investment in customer-scale technologies.
  • Analyzing performance-based regulation options, including revenue adjustment mechanisms and financial and non-financial performance mechanisms.
  • Examining the roles of utilities vs. third-parties in providing value-added services.

Rate Design and Ratemaking, for example:

  • Analyzing advanced rate designs for customers.
  • Assessing equity and affordability issues associated with various rate options, including impacts to customer subpopulations (e.g., low-to-moderate income) and voluntary vs. default enrollment approaches.
  • Developing equitable and sustainable export compensation mechanisms for all forms of distributed energy resources.
  • Assessing approaches to apply time-varying rates to affect the time-dependent and potentially location-dependent usage of energy and DERs.

Integrated Planning, for example:

  • Conducting scenario analysis to determine the viability of resource options based on policy and technology preferences (e.g., clean energy) that may impart incentives and constraints in a more equitable fashion. 
  • Assisting in coordinating planning processes across the bulk-power, transmission, and distribution systems to address system-wide issues, e.g., to meet resource adequacy, resilience, and system flexibility requirements.
  • Assisting with integrated distribution system planning, including walk-jog-run strategies for implementing hosting capacity analysis, interconnection processes, and non-wires alternatives, to effectively utilize distributed energy resources (DERs) and novel grid configurations, e.g., microgrids. 
  • Guiding and assessing grid modernization strategies and technology implementation plans that account for the effective deployment of sensing, communication, control, data/information management, computing, cybersecurity, and coordination capabilities to enable the equitable utilization of DERs and improve grid operations.
  • Applying cost-effectiveness assessment methods.
  • Incorporating energy justice considerations into planning processes.

Resilience Planning, for example:

  • Applying threat-based risk assessment to inform regional- and state-level planning processes.
  • Engaging stakeholders to coordinate approaches across federal, state, and community jurisdictions for addressing cyber and physical threats.
  • Assessing policy and technology options for improving resilience.

Technology Application and Evaluation, for example:

  • Examining methods for improved outage and voltage management, including analyzing approaches for deploying power electronics (e.g., smart inverters) to enable the equitable integration and utilization of DERs.
  • Evaluating cybersecurity preparedness and appropriate investments to safeguard the operation of the grid.
  • Analyzing policies, regulations, technology requirements, and tariffs concerning the equitable use of grid-interactive resources, e.g., energy storage, flexible loads, and microgrids.
  • Evaluating proposed plans to deploy advanced metering functionality and customer-facing technologies that equitably distribute system and customer benefits.

Cross-Jurisdictional Coordination, for example:

  • Assessing coordination frameworks for managing operations, including enabling the visibility and control of DERs, across the bulk-power, distribution, and customer/third-party domains.
  • Evaluating market designs that utilize resources throughout the bulk-power and distribution systems.
  • Assessing cross-jurisdictional resource adequacy considerations and risks and developing options for improving cross-jurisdictional visibility and coordination for improved reliability and resilience.
Application Selection Criteria

Each application will undergo a process by which it will be scored according to the merit review criteria provided below.  The final ranking of the applications, however, will depend on their respective scores combined with a consideration of program policy factors provided below.  The final selection will depend upon the availability of funds, including leveraged funds from other DOE program offices.  The DOE program managers overseeing this program will undertake the merit review and selection process.  

Merit Review Criteria:

  1. Merit of the application (1=Poor; 2=Average; 3=Good; 4=Excellent) 

    1. Issues needing to be addressed are important, focusing on a specific issue rather than requesting a broad range of support.

    2. Requestor is in a position to act on the TA being requested.

  2. Significance of the issue with regard to state or national interests (1=Poor; 2=Average; 3=Good; 4=Excellent)

    1. The request for TA is to address an issue that is significant among states or across the nation.

  3. Timeliness (1=Poor; 2=Average; 3=Good; 4=Excellent)

    1. Requestor has shown an immediate or near-term need to act on the TA being requested (e.g. through dockets or special investigations).

    2. Proposed schedule allows for sufficient time to address the request.

Program Policy Factors:

  1. Projects may be selected that best align with DOE program interests.

  2. Projects may be selected that best align with National Lab capabilities.

  3. Projects may be selected to best represent a range of issues.

  4. Projects may be selected to support geographic diversity.

  5. Projects may be selected that favor providing awards to PUCs with limited resources.

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