power lines and wind turbines over a solar field at sunset

Rocky Mountain Institute Report Offers Framework for Effective Pilots and Demonstration Projects for the Electricity Industry

Boulder, Colorado, June 28, 2017—Utilities crafting new business models and customer programs in response to flat demand and the growth of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles should both leverage industry best practices and seek effective stakeholder collaboration in designing and executing meaningful test projects, according to a report by Rocky Mountain Institute.

RMI’s report, Pathways for Innovation: The Role of Pilots and Demonstrations in Reinventing the Utility Business Model, explores challenges to effective innovation at U.S. electric utilities, with a focus on pilot and demonstration projects. The report offers recommendations for utilities, regulators, and DER technology providers to incorporate meaningful pilot and demonstration projects into innovation programs that advance a low-carbon, distributed, resilient energy system.

“Making the transition to a DER-rich future requires piloting new approaches to operating the electricity system, to engaging customers, to working with third-party DER providers, and to the utility business model itself,” Mike Henchen, a manager at RMI, said. “The industry — and individual customers and businesses — would be best served by grid stakeholders adopting collaborative approaches and sharing best practices to maximize buy-in and rapidly advance innovative programs to market.”

Arizona Public Service, Avista Utilities, and Con Edison supported RMI as a consultant to perform assessments of their innovation programs, which informed many of the conclusions of the report. Additional insight came from members of RMI’s Electricity Innovation Lab (eLab).

As utilities in larger numbers begin to test and develop a variety of new technologies, business models, and customer-facing programs in response to these emerging industry trends, the findings of the report can help clarify an effective path forward for utilities designing pilot or demonstration projects — while also highlighting industry best practices emerging from modernization efforts across the country.

To access a copy of the Pathways for Innovation report, see https://rmi.org/insights/reports/pathwaysforinnovation/.