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by Jeff St. John
September 14, 2018

The U.S. market for non-wires alternatives is still in its infancy.

Energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, batteries, EVs and other sources of grid edge flexibility are starting to take the place of improvements to a utility’s “wires” infrastructure. But NWA isn't so much a market. It's more of a collection of regulation-driven utility projects.

Not everyone calls them NWAs, either. That’s the preferred term in New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, which is driving the lion’s share of projects in the country, including Con Edison’s groundbreaking Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management program.

But in California, they’re being called distribution deferral opportunities, and other states have their own descriptions for the same fundamental concept — as well as their own regulatory models for how utilities and NWA providers can share in the financial benefits.

This lack of common nomenclature is matched by a lack of commonly accepted standards for how to compare and contrast the values of wires versus non-wires opportunities, particularly down at the distribution grid level. That’s because NWAs are being rolled out amidst broader efforts by regulators and utilities to deploy the technology and integrate the data to make these kinds of measurements possible in the first place.

Still, what information is available supports several important insights about the NWA opportunities across the United States.