Media: Why can't utilities innovate like startups? (UtilityDive)

Aug 21, 2015

From UtilityDive:

It seems obvious to say that utilities are not known for their innovation. But a new white paper produced by investor-owned utilities and private sector stakeholders suggests that may be because regulators are holding the industry back ... “Utilities and regulators are not known to be nimble and they may not know what their customers want,” said former Xcel Energy executive and current Center for Energy and Environment Policy and Communications Director Mike Bull. “The way to find out is to be able to offer services on a pilot basis.”

To free up utilities to innovate, Bull wants regulators to establish official pilot program guidelines. It can take 18 months to get a program through the regulatory process and almost as long to discontinue an unsuccessful one, he explained. Guidelines like those he proposed for Minnesota’s cutting edge e21 Initiative could change that.

An experimental utility project would not be likely to “put ratepayer dollars at risk for fly-by-night things” if it met commission-approved standards that were pre-vetted by all stakeholders, Bull said. A pilot might then be put in place without a lengthy and costly regulatory review ... 

Read the full article at UtilityDive.