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by Jeff St. John
November 21, 2018

Non-wires alternatives (NWAs) — projects that seek to use distributed energy resources to delay or replace traditional grid investments — are very much a state-by-state, project-by-project affair. In the past five years or so, we’ve seen the handful of legacy NWA projects across the country start to be supplanted by a new breed of projects, led by New York and California, along with a handful of New England states.

But as our analysts at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables have noted, it’s hard to compare and contrast the benefits or drawbacks of each state’s approach to NWAs, or to measure their cost-effectiveness against alternative approaches. That’s largely because the field is so young, and because each state has adopted different metrics and methodologies, as well as different standards of data sharing and project transparency, that make apples-to-apples comparisons difficult. 

Back in April, nonprofit E4TheFuture hired the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) trade groups to go out and create a nationwide survey of NWA projects, as a first step in solving this problem. The result is a report released last week, comparing and contrasting 10 representative NWA projects from seven states: New York, California, Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island and Washington state. 

The projects cover a wide range of technologies, from the old standbys of energy efficiency (EE) and demand response (DR), to on-site rooftop solar, combined heat and power (CHP), battery and thermal energy storage, and utility-side generation redispatch and conservation voltage optimization. In terms of scale, the projects covered in the report range from the Bonneville Power Administration’s proposed 100-megawatt transmission relief project, to distribution-level NWAs from 330 kilowatts to 85 megawatts.