The PSC order creating MEDSIS, or as it’s known in the docket: Formal Case 1130, was published on June 12, 2015.  It cited as background for opening the case requests from Grid 2.0, the Sierra Club of the District of Columbia, DC Climate Action, and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D06 that the Commission “investigate new technologies that could improve Pepco’s grid with the incorporation of distributed generation including solar energy, and the exploration of micro-grid architecture opportunities, and other conservation and environmental quality issues…”  By opening FC 1130 the PSC appeared to be responsive to public demand that the antiquated Pepco grid be updated to meet the needs of the 21st century.  The PSC invited response to their preliminary scope for FC 1130.

The Grid 2.0 Working Group, joined by the DC Consumer Utility Board, DC Environmental Network, and DC Chapter of Sierra Club, submitted comments on the preliminary scope of MEDSIS on August 31, 2015.  Among many recommendations we asserted “that a basic premise for the case should be clearly articulated: Growth in energy demand is no longer the key dynamic around which grid planning should be built.”  Another point we emphasized was that solutions should be “technology neutral” – our comments favored improved energy efficiency and clean energy, but stated that the PSC shouldn’t favor any technology over another – rather they should emphasize performance. Following the initial comment period the PSC convened three full day workshops highlighting utility and “third party” technology vendors and other experts.  CUB and other public interest organizations were not consulted or asked to present their views on what would best serve the public interest, despite having been largely credited with originating the case.  This is when I first questioned what ends were going to be served by MEDSIS?

GRID2.0 renewed its requests for clarification on the proposed outcomes of FC 1130, the anticipated duration of the process, and other recommendations in an April 18, 2016 submission to the MEDSIS docket – a week before the third scheduled workshop.  Almost a year had passed and the PSC had yet to respond to initial comments on the scope of the case.  Everything that was presented initially as “preliminary” remained unresolved.  Rob Robinson and I met with PSC staff to discuss next steps for MEDSIS and were assured that a PSC staff report or its equivalent would be issued to address our concerns in early Fall 2016.   

The CUB joined another submission to the MEDSIS docket on July 25, 2016.  We articulated eleven “Principles, Goals and Performance Measures for MEDSIS;” identified nine “Pilot Projects within the Grid of the Future MEDSIS Proceedings” to explore how tools like distributed energy resources, demand management, energy efficiency, and alternative tariff and rate design can contribute toward a grid that optimizes clearly defined goals; and recommended “Launching a Smart MEDSIS Process” to design and implement a system that considers the full range of alternatives for meeting our energy distribution system needs, and selects the optimum choices.

Now, with Halloween `16 behind us, I wonder more than ever the actual purpose of FC 1130.  Will it become the strategic plan for DC’s smartgrid that I’d hoped, or is it a time sponge to occupy activists for utility reform with promises, and workshops?  The PSC deposited tens of millions of dollars from the Exelon Merger deal into a dedicated account for FC 1130 to conduct pilots and defray other expenses anticipated with Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability, so all indications are that the PSC plans to do something.  But more than a year into it, we’ve yet to even see the scope of the case finalized.  That is a problem.  With every rate case Pepco is allowed to charge ratepayers higher rates for their business as usual.  If we’re going to be billed for our grid, we want a say in its design, and we don’t want to be put on hold.

Larry Martin,  Treasurer

DC Consumer Utility Board