Minnesota is joining an effort that originated in New York State to create a database of information that local communities can use to design various energy initiatives.
Minnesota joins New York, Maryland, and the District of Columbia in the development of the next stage of the Utility Energy Registry in each state.
The Great Plains Institute is taking the lead on the Minnesota project, with support from architectural firm LHB Inc. and from the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The year-long project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s State Energy Program.
The ultimate goal of the registry is to establish a national community level energy registry with standardized data and metrics.
The data can be used to develop clean energy and resiliency goals and to set up initiatives, such as programs for energy efficiency, LED lighting, Property Assessed Clean Energy financing schemes, efficiency programs for public buildings and community choice aggregation programs.
The registry will collect aggregated data for electricity and natural gas, segmented by customer type and by zip code in order to inform clean energy planning and community level clean energy programs.
The Great Plains Institute is seeking input from Minnesota’s nearly 200 gas and electric utilities on how to best capture the data.
Many utilities have been deluged with information requests by communities interested in setting up energy programs. One of the aims of the registry is to provide a single, standardized source of data and information to which utilities can direct those requests.
The program’s roots go back to 2012 when the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) organized a voluntary program aimed at creating a standard community energy report. Building on that effort, NYSERDA in 2015 created the Utility Energy Registry, a web site to host the data from the community energy reports.
Since the project’s inception, the New York Public Service Commission has requested public comment on a policy framework it issued in May 2016 that calls on the state’s utilities to continue to work with NYSERDA to develop the Utility Energy Registry.
The PSC sought comments on how frequently the registry should be updated and whether or not the data collected should be expanded for purposes that include, but are not limited to, community choice aggregation programs.
In June, a group of eight New York utilities filed a joint petition with the PSC, seeking clarification on the type of data that should be provided to the registry.
The utilities making the filing were: Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, New York State Electric & Gas Corporation, Niagara Mohawk Power, The Brooklyn Union Gas Company and KeySpan Gas East, Orange and Rockland Utilities, and Rochester Gas and Electric.
The utilities say they support the utility registry program, but they want certain details addressed before they provided aggregated data updates to NYSERDA.
The registry currently collects municipal level data and is grouped by generic customer classes (residential, commercial, and industrial). The PSC is seeking comment on whether the data collected should be expanded. In their filing, the utilities argue that collecting the more detailed data requested would be inconsistent with PSC precedent and present “significant administrative difficulty.”
The utilities also say that allowing them to charge a fee for that data would provide revenues that can be used “to offset costs and provide benefits to all customers.”
The Utility Energy Registry was originally initiated as a NYSERDA pilot project to support benchmarking and other public policy initiatives and “not to subsidize the marketing activities of for-profit businesses,” the utilities wrote in the filing.