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NARUC participants try to define 'utility of the future'

Just what is "the utility of the future"? And canregulation keep up with it?

Those questions were posted to President and CEO ChrisCrane July 25 at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners'summer meeting in Nashville, Tenn. NARUC President Travis Kavulla, a member ofthe Montana Public Service Commission, posed the questions.

For Crane, defining the utility of the future meansdifferentiating between trends and fads. Another way to look at it, he said, isto differentiate between what consumers want and what the company's commercialside wants to sell.

One component that has proven successful, Crane said, issmart meters, because they have been cost-effective for consumers. Now, hesaid, the question for utilities that have installed them is how to bestoptimize the data they are now collecting.

Customer-sited distributed energy resources are also provingto be a trend, Crane said, though he added, "Regulations have to evolvewith the penetration or evolution of technology."

Whether microgrids or storage technologies fit into theutility of the future is unclear, Crane said. On microgrids, he asked whethersocietal benefits have been demonstrated. For storage, he said currenttechnologies are not yet affordable for residential utility-scale needs. Healso asked whether there are battery configurations beyond the currentlithium-ion designs.