Despite the Administration’s push to preserve centralized, coal-fired power in the Midwest, Ohio is determined to leave its past behind and pursue modern energy solutions. PowerFoward, an initiative of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), is a customer-focused “roadmap” to grid modernization, highlighting an open-access platform that will serve to foster innovation.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has recognized that consumers want more options than those traditionally provided by their utilities. The conventional one-way grid acts only as a means to deliver energy to end-users through transmission lines. A modernized grid system can better accommodate many distributed energy resources and help manage electricity demand, creating a networked grid that is both more efficient and more resilient.

The PowerFoward program is based on national grid modernization trends, which were run “through an Ohio filter,” prioritizing technological ingenuity and an enhanced customer electricity experience. The roadmap is designed to include the four main investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in Ohio, but also creates space for third-party investors to introduce creative customer solutions. A crucial feature of the plan would be to develop an accessible, consistent platform for utilities to connect. This platform would include standardized access to customer energy usage data and would ensure that every distribution utility embraces interoperability standards, to make the grid as flexible as possible.

Another notable feature of the roadmap is its strong support for electric vehicles (EVs). PUCO gave great consideration to the rising demand for electric vehicles and made sure to include plans for EV infrastructure and market development in its roadmap, stating, “EV charging stations must become as ubiquitous as gas stations are today.”

The trend toward grid modernization has been slowly transforming the country’s energy sector, with states such as California, New York and Hawaii leading the way. But this move is not exclusive to coastal or liberal states. Last year, the Grid Modernization Index rated Illinois second in the country for its vigorous efforts to modernize its transmission and distribution frameworks. Minnesota has also stepped forward with its own initiative for grid modernization, which is driven by relevant stakeholders such as IOUs, consumer advocates, and energy research groups. Rhode Island and Missouri are also outlining modernization proposals.

As Ohio joins the ranks of states committed to affordable decentralized energy, it is a promising signal that America’s utility system is moving rapidly toward a more resilient, reliable and efficient grid. You can see the work EESI has done delving into grid modernization here.


Author: Meryl McBroom