Non-wires alternatives is a slightly goofy term for an admirable idea: Figuring out ways to strengthen or improve the power grid without building more expensive towers and substations and, yes, wires. It can involve using less electricity via demand response or efficiency; storing electricity; and generating electricity closer to customers, which requires fewer wires. It’s not clear which systems are best in which situations, and regulators all over the place are studying the issue. Utility Dive, a publication that focuses on various utilities, reports (read it here) on a wonky change to New Hampshire’s study:

The New Hampshire PUC, responding to concern from a range of stakeholders, is backtracking on a plan to develop distributed generation-only pilots aimed at finding non-wires alternatives (NWA *). Utilities, staff and others said that without the inclusion of other distributed energy resources (DERs), like energy storage, efficiency and demand response, the study would be unlikely to yield much useful information.

In other words, the Public Utilities Commission thinks it’s so unlikely that you can effectively upgrade the grid in New Hampshire merely by using solar panels (generally what DER means) that they’re scrapping any plans to study the idea.

I have no idea if this is a good move to focus analysis on realistic possibilities in order to heighten the possibility of finding a practical result, or if it’s an insidious plot by old-school power barons to protect themselves from being “disrupted” by solar panels.

But it certainly reflects the complexity of the transition that the industry is going through

 * An acronym that will amuse rap fans. (UPDATE: a reader points out that it’s an initialism, not an acronym, because individual letters are pronounced)


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