The urban microgrid: smart legal and regulatory policies to support electric grid resiliency and climate mitigation.

Author:Jones, Kevin B.
Position:II. The Microgrid Case Studies B. An Urban Microgrid Within a Dense Urban Network: The NYU Microgrid 3. NYC Microgrid Support and Efforts through Conclusion, with footnotes, p. 1725-1757 - Smart Law for Smart Cities: Regulation, Technology, and the Future of Cities
  1. NYC Microgrid Support and Efforts

    Microgrid discussion and early implementation efforts in NYC are arising from multiple sectors across the city, state, and even nation, with all levels of government and non-governmental entities getting involved. This section will focus on these early efforts and how different groups and individuals are contributing to future microgrid models in NYC. Issues examined will include microgrid funding, microgrid ownership and operation, and substantive and notable goals for microgrid implementation.

    1. Federal Support for Microgrids in New York

      After the discussion of Hurricane Sandy, it is not surprising that federal support for microgrids in New York has arisen in conjunction with Sandy relief and future storm prevention programs. Perhaps also not surprising is that the bulk of this federal support has been through funding opportunities and broad policy statements. Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force (Task Force) proposals are perhaps the most direct source of microgrid support at the federal level. Created by President Obama's Executive Order 13632, "Establishing the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force," the Task Force is an amalgamation of twenty-five federal offices and agencies (not including, but closely associated with, the Federal Emergency Management Agency--FEMA) headed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). (212) While the term "rebuilding" and association with FEMA might arouse ideas that the Task Force is merely a response and repair entity, the Task Force was created to provide recommendations for long-term energy security and resiliency policy, of which microgrids are a part.

      The Task Force released the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy in August 2013. This report provides sixty-nine proposals for various federal and state agencies to adopt, and three of these proposals explicitly reference microgrid research and development. (213) The first two, Recommendations 11 and 12, address methods of optimizing funding and encouraging best practices for resiliency. (214) Recommendation 11 notes that HUD and the DOE have provided at least $30 million from HUD's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to support energy infrastructure resiliency, and in New York, this was intended to fund a "Resilience Retrofit program." (215) The Task Force envisioned this retrofit program supporting smart grid, CHP, microgrid, fuel cells, and storage, and this proposal has moved forward into implementation to some extent. (216) The third proposal. Recommendation 14, focuses on improving electric grid policies and technical standards, and suggests that DOE and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers cooperate with states to meet these objectives. (217) Furthermore, the recommendation asserts that improvements are needed in terms of isolating outages and keeping essential services up and running, and specifies smart grid, microgrid, distributed generation (including CHP), and other technologies as possible solutions which deserve technical and policy support. (218)

      Beyond the Task Force, the federal government has also encouraged microgrid adoption through HUD CDBG funding. Under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, Congress made a total of $16 billion available through the CDBG fund (later reduced to $15.18 billion as a result of a presidential sequestration order) to sponsor "disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization." (219) While the statutory goals of the project seemed to favor simple recovery over future resilience, Congress provided that HUD could establish "alternative requirements for... the use of these funds by a grantee." (220) HUD took advantage of this authority in its second round of funding allocation. In response to Executive Order 13632, which required executive entities to "align their relevant programs and authorities with the [Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding] Strategy," the second allocation of CDBG funds for Sandy Relief encourages grantees to incorporate energy infrastructure resiliency projects into their Action Plans (required submissions by grantees in order to be distributed appropriated funds). The Federal Register entry specifically notes microgrids as potentially appropriate resiliency measures for use of these funds. (221)

      Moving forward, especially as repairs are completed and microgrid policy develops further, unallocated federal funding seems likely, or at least possible, to be used for microgrid development in NYC.

    2. New York State Support for Microgrids

      Efforts at the state level have been more tangible and more focused on microgrid planning and policy. While many of these efforts are geared towards the state as a whole, given NYC's population and economic prominence in the state, as well as its significant vulnerability to extreme weather, it seems a likely target for planning and demonstration. For example, New York's Green Bank, established in 2013 and overseen by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), recently noted that it is working to create a Resiliency Retrofit Fund that would use $30 million in federal Hurricane Sandy relief funding to encourage resiliency projects through credit enhancement. (222) It is also noted as being specifically coordinate with NYC. (223)

      One of the most publicized microgrid efforts in New York State (NYS) has been the NY Prize competition. This program, stemming from Governor Cuomo's $16.75 billion "Reimagining New York for a New Reality" strategy, (224) is a $ 40 million competitive grant pool

      poised "to help build [at least ten] community-scale microgrids for areas with approximately 40,000 residents." (225) NY Prize is one of at least 1000 programs included in Reimagining New York for a New Reality that are aimed at extreme weather resiliency and response. (226) It was introduced in tandem with $1.37 billion in more traditional grid hardening efforts such tree trimming, new outage response systems, putting distribution wires underground, etc. (227) The Governor's Office Press Release notes that both "federal funds appropriated for Sandy ... along with state funds" will support Reimagining New York for a New Reality, (228) and the NYS 2014-2015 Executive Budget references NYSERDA and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) as sources of the state backing. (229) NY Prize will support at least ten microgrids statewide and will be administered primarily by NYSERDA with support from NYPA. (230) The microgrids selected for funding must incorporate "decentralized, local, clean power sources" and serve "approximately 40,000 residents." (231) Program implementation details have not yet been announced. It should be noted that this model follows from another NYS microgrid competitive funding opportunity that began in October 2013, which will award $10 million in each Nassau and Suffolk counties to establish microgrids. (232)

      Beyond microgrid funding, a number of state government and NGO entities that have been working on technical and regulatory planning, and even direct advocacy for microgrid implementation. In particular, the 2014 Draft State Energy Plan (SEP), NYS 2100 Commission recommendations, NYSERDA, the NYS SmartGrid Consortium (NYSSGC), and Pace Law School have been visibly invested in exploring microgrids, and their reports and efforts have been crucial in spurring the microgrid discussion that led to the NY Prize. Each will be described in turn.

      Starting with the recently released Draft 2014 SEP, NYS's State Energy Planning Board (SEPB) recently showed significant support for microgrids as part of NYS's energy future. This Draft SEP consists of two volumes, one which addresses various aspects of current energy use and production in NYS and future projections thereof, and another volume which presents fifteen "actionable policy recommendations" "to advance the State's energy future." (233) Notably, two of these fifteen initiatives, initiatives six and seven, commit the New York State Department of Public Service (DPS), NYPA, and NYSERDA to specific microgrid planning efforts. (234) DPS has the largest share of the responsibility, as it is charged with addressing obstacles to microgrids; considering stand-by rates (rates charged by electric corporations to backup microgrids), interconnection, maximum plant sizes, etc., and also with refining microgrid policies. (235) NYPA, on the other hand, is to "evaluate supporting microgrids in strategic locations," and NYSERDA and NYPA are to "develop programs, and authority if needed, to encourage new financing and ownership models to facilitate community grid projects." (236)

      Another important point is that the Draft 2014 SEP specifically defines microgrids. Volume Two defines a microgrid as "a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid and that can connect and disconnect from such grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island mode." (237) As will be discussed later, this definition is the only definition of "microgrid" that appears in legislative materials in NYS, and although it is not included in any public service statute or regulations, defining microgrids is a necessary step in microgrid regulation. (238)

      A second state microgrid planning document that has emerged in NYS is the NYS 2100 Commission's "Recommendations to Improve the Strength and Resilience of the Empire State's Infrastructure," released in 2013. (239) The 2100 Commission, established by Governor Cuomo in response to Hurricane Sandy, is composed of national interdisciplinary experts whose purpose is to aid law and policymakers in addressing future storm resilience. (240) Although this entity does not share the same level of legal authority as the SEPB, given the quality of experts, the public acclaim...

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