In a formal filing with the Maryland Public Service Commission (see PDF below) Berliner argued modernization should be included in the PSC’s recent effort to make utilities more reliable by requiring short-term and long-term reliability plans.
Berliner, an energy lawyer, has frequently taken on Pepco and last year held a Committee session on “Utility 2.0,” a more efficient, sustainable and reliable electric system that could include local micro-grids powered by solar means, biogas and gas fired cogeneration.
“There should be little debate over the fact that we need a very different kind of utility service. Our current system was born of a different era. Not only is the infrastructure antiquated, the utility paradigm itself is antiquated. Both the business model and the regulatory structure are sorely out of date. In an era of smart phones, we have the equivalent of the old, black rotary phone. It is sometimes said that if Alexander Graham Bell came back in time, he would have a hard time recognizing a phone. Not so with Thomas Edison — it would look all too familiar,” Berliner wrote to the PSC.
The PSC controls regulations for utilities such as Pepco, an investor-owned company that operates in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Washington D.C.
“We need a new system that would make Steve Jobs proud. That will require bold changes in the conservative culture of utilities and regulators alike. The technology exists. It is the institutional barriers that must be overcome to put consumers in control and to create a much more reliable, cleaner, and energy efficient grid,” Berliner added.
In the filing, Berliner cites a recent visit to the Food and Drug Administration campus in Silver Spring, which operates on a micro-grid powered with solar power and gas-fired cogeneration. The campus claims the grid has achieved 99.999 percent reliability over the past year and extra power can be sold into the surrounding grid.
Berliner would like to see the PSC allow Montgomery County to pilot a microgrid system in a residential neighborhood.
He also proposed smart meters that would more efficiently use power and dynamic pricing that would allow consumers to save money, as opposed to flat rates.