Pennsylvania Microgrid Bill Wins Committee Vote. Heads to House

March 13, 2018
A utility microgrid bill is headed to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives following unanimous committee approval Monday.

A utility microgrid bill is headed to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives following unanimous committee approval Monday.

The Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee voted in favor of HB 1412, which clears the way for utilities to build microgrid pilot projects and recover their costs through rates.

The bill arose out of uncertainty about the utility role in microgrid development in the restructured state. Pennsylvania’s competitive rules limit a utility’s ability to build and own generation. Because microgrids include generation assets , utilities have been reticent to move forward with projects without assurance that they will be allowed to recover costs.

The bill allows utilities to  recover costs as long as the the state public utility commission deems them prudent.

If the microgrid participates in wholesale power markets, the utility must channel any revenue from the transactions to ratepayers. Microgrids can earn such revenue by selling energy or ancillary services to the grid, when their services are not needed by their immediate customers.

Microgrids for resiliency

But the committee’s main focus was on the use of microgrids for back-up power when the central grid fails. Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), who championed the bill, cited the benefit of microgrid power during disasters. Microgrids island from the grid during a power outage and activate their own generators to serve local customers.

“It’s important to provide resiliency in the provision of electricity for our emergency responders, especially during power outages. We all know that medical issues and other emergencies don’t stop during outages. In fact, they can be more frequent, with vulnerable citizens being exposed to more extreme temperatures and a lack of food and necessities,” Barrar said.

The microgrid bill also was championed by utilities Duquesne Light and PECO, along with the Edison Electric Institute, which testified in its favor in June.

A bill amendment requires that the PUC evaluate results from the first pilot microgrid after five years and report them to the General Assembly. The report must include a cost/benefit analysis and specific criteria upon which energy storage and microgrids should be developed and deployed. The report must also detail whether microgrids and energy storage are in the public’s best interest.

Track news about this microgrid bill HB 1412 by following Microgrid Knowledge on Twitter @MicrogridNews .

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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