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Rocky Mountain Institute Announces Project Teams for 2018 e-Lab Accelerator Event

Boulder, Colorado, April 30, 2018 — Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) today announced its project team list for its Electricity Innovation Lab (eLab) Accelerator 2018 event. A bootcamp for innovators in the electricity industry, eLab Accelerator has a proven track record of delivering transformative change across North America.

The fifth annual eLab Accelerator, being held in Sundance, Utah, May 1–4, 2018, is a core event within eLab. Led by RMI, eLab is a unique collaboration of leading industry actors to develop, implement, and spread new solutions to enable greater adoption of economic distributed energy resources (DERs) to create a cleaner, more resilient and more customer-oriented electricity system.

“Building an energy system that responds to the needs of today’s customers and tomorrow’s generations requires bold ideas, collaboration and testing and pathways to scale,” Coreina Chan, a principal at RMI, said. “Through eLab and Accelerator, we are supporting a network of inspired change agents to shape the boundaries of this emerging system.”

Following the most challenging selection process for eLab Accelerator to date, RMI is welcoming the following teams:

  • Military Energy Resilience Catalyst (MERC): The US Department of Defense (DoD) has made strengthening energy resilience and security a key priority in its energy strategy. The DoD has deployed dozens of pilot projects such as microgrids for resilient energy systems, but has not yet developed replicable models to streamline project deployment. MERC aims to develop a community of best practices among military energy stakeholders. MERC is being organized by Converge Strategies and Idaho National Lab, and invited participants will represent the Navy, Army, Air Force, and Secretary of Defense.
  • PGE Test Bed: Portland General Electric (PGE) was directed to acquire at least 77 megawatts of demand response (DR) technology by 2021 and to establish a “Demand Response Test Bed”—meant to test what it will take to deploy DR at scale and accelerate the development and acquisition of DR resources. PGE is working to establish test bed sites at three distribution substations where DR can be studied for scaling and deployment accelerated.
  • Strategically Growing NM Renewables: Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), directed by a recent planning process, plans to close the San Juan coal plant, which supplies half of New Mexico’s electricity, by 2022, and to remove all coal generation from its portfolio by 2031. The PNM team will work to devise a strategy to strengthen relationships with affected communities, validate or change the direction of the planning process and improve communication around the opportunities created by its new resource plan—in order to facilitate more than 30 percent renewable energy supply for its operations.
  • Regulatory Process for Non-Wire Alternative Projects: Southern Company is exploring regulatory approaches, adaptable to their separate operating companies, to non-wires solutions for addressing energy quality and reliability issues. Any solution will need to address technical issues as well as consider how costs will be recovered by the regulated investor-owned utility.
  • GridOptimal Initiative: New Buildings Institute and the US Green Building Council are launching the GridOptimal Initiative—a collaborative effort to ensure that the new generation of low- and zero-energy buildings is optimized for grid integration. Their aim is to empower utilities, regulators, grid operators, building owners, architects, engineers and others by providing a dedicated building rating system that contains the standards, tools and guidance for building-grid interactions—helping to improve the electricity grid’s safety, affordability, reliability, resilience and ability to integrate renewable energy.
  • Project WORP: West Oakland Renewable Power: Project WORP proposes to create a community-owned, industrial scale, rooftop solar generation and storage facility to give local residents the opportunity to invest in new, clean energy infrastructure. In partnership with local warehouse developers, Project WORP will sell energy to the local logistics industry and load-serving entities to create an ongoing revenue stream for individual community members. In parallel, Pacific Gas & Electric and East Bay Community Energy released a request for offers for DER alternatives to a local diesel-fueled power plant.
  • Overcoming Challenges to Renter Energy Equity: This team, championed by Energy Foundation, aims to develop strategies to protect low-income renters from new utility rate designs and strengthen the value proposition for clean energy investments in low-income multifamily rental markets. Ideas include: engagement plan for tenant education on utility rates, costs and options; documentation of new rate design impacts on tenants; and tools to help tenants align energy consumption with new rates.
  • North Minneapolis Microgrid Project: The Plymouth Avenue project team aims to develop a microgrid in North Minneapolis, Minnesota, to serve and meaningfully engage an urban, diverse, federally-designated Promise Zone community. With committed focus on economic development, resilience and community engagement, the team will bring together regulators, developers, the City of Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota, Xcel Energy and community representatives to design an implementation plan and microgrid business model.
  • Southwest LA Health and Equity Preferred Resources Pilot: This team will work to design a preferred resources pilot to benefit disadvantaged communities in the southwest Los Angeles region by aggregating DERs with a focus on health and equity co-benefits. In particular, the group will identify pathways to increase access to solar and storage in low-income communities, pilot storage aggregation and demand management technologies and increase the use of commercial DERs and community-scale solar in their community. The team is championed by PSE Healthy Energy and includes LADWP, Communities for a Better Environment, and GRID Alternatives.
  • Illinois Energy Future—Developing Projects to Support the Future Grid: Commonwealth Edison and the Citizens Utility Board are bringing a team together to develop four pilots focused on: energy efficiency, electrification and electric vehicle policy, and rate design/performance-based approaches and storage, with a particular focus on reducing peak demand. Considerable attention will be paid to low- and moderate- income issues to ensure that future policy is as equitable as possible.
  • Virtual Power Plants: GridLab leads a team investigating how a portfolio of clean power, DR and storage—a virtual power plant—can replace the energy and capacity from a natural gas combined cycle plant. This team will advance existing work in this space to develop and vet a prototype planning framework, for utilities and others, with guidelines on how to assemble portfolios for virtual power plants that appropriately account for new energy and capacity from these resources.
  • Testing Smart Load Growth through Enhanced EV Readiness: Electric vehicle (EV) penetration is slowly increasing in Minnesota due to naturally occurring market forces, but what customer offerings and environmental factors can beneficially shape load and speed conversion to EVs? This question can be tested in a number of near-term advanced energy districts in Minnesota with carbon or resiliency goals. A diverse team led by MN Center for Energy and Environment and composed of utility representatives, community leaders, developers, advocates and user-centered researchers will define what an ideal EV-ready environment looks like, key factors that should be tested and metrics for measuring success.
  • Juneau Renewable Heating: Alaska Electric Light and Power Co. operates an 80 MW, isolated grid in Juneau, Alaska, that receives nearly all its electricity from low-impact hydro generation, but serves greater than 80 percent of heating demand with petroleum-fired generation. In February, the Juneau Assembly voted to adopt a goal of serving 80 percent of total energy use (including heating) with renewable energy by 2045. This team aims to develop a realistic strategy for achieving that goal while considering the unique constraints of operating a small, isolated system, such as timing new additions of capacity with new additions of load in a way that keeps rates reasonable and doesn’t stunt economic growth.

Expert eLab faculty and RMI staff will be on location throughout the meeting to offer feedback, coaching, and support to eLab Accelerator teams on critical project content areas. Faculty expertise includes topics such as regulatory transformation, portfolio design for renewable resources, transition strategies for energy system change, best practices for stakeholder engagement and venture capital in electricity.



Todd Zeranski
Marketing Manager, Rocky Mountain Institute
Tel: 917-670-6568

About Rocky Mountain Institute

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

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