Distributed Energy Resources

Nevada PUC eyes blockchain to track renewable credits

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The Nevada Public Utilities Commission in late September opened a docket on the use of blockchain technology for tracking Portfolio Energy Credits (PECs).

The current PEC tracking system, NVTREC, is becoming obsolete, Commissioner Ann Pongracz said when she introduced a motion to open the proceeding.

Investor-owned NV Energy, the utility company that serves almost all of Nevada, no longer maintains the software and that is putting additional demands on commission staff’s limited time resources, Pongracz said.

An alternative tracking system, the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System, is used in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, but it has a 1 MW threshold, which makes it “not well suited to providing the value of PECs to smaller generators,” Pongracz said.  

Renewable energy producers in Nevada earn PECs that can be sold to utilities that then use them to comply with the state’s renewable portfolio standard. Under the state’s current RPS, utilities must source 25% of their energy sales from renewable sources by 2025. If a renewable energy producer receives incentives, the PECs from that resource go directly to the utility.

In November, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a ballot initiative that would raise the state’s RPS to 50% by 2030.

In the PUC meeting that took up the blockchain issue, Commissioner Bruce Breslow and Chairman Ann Wilkinson expressed support for the concept but asked that the investigation be expanded to include alternative technologies in addition to blockchain. Those additions were made and the order was approved.

Prior to approving the docket (18-09008) to open an investigation on the use of blockchain, the commissioners approved an order, 16-07032, that allows for the use of alternative tracking systems as they become available. Approval of that order cleared a path to open the investigative docket.

Blockchain technology is often associated with Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency, but the two are not synonymous. Blockchain is, in essence, a digital ledger that is automatic and secure. It allows transactions of any size to be recorded, stored and transmitted quickly and securely. Blockchain is being used, or its use is being investigated, in a variety of applications in a wide range of industries, from manufacturing and banking to energy.

For instance, four utilities and the New York Power Authority are studying the potential of using blockchain technology for smart contracts. And in Arizona regulators have opened a docket to explore the potential of blockchain in the state’s energy sector.