This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


The NY REV: To Innovate, More R&D Spending By Utilities?'s picture

The mission of is to facilitate substantive, responsible dialogue on energy policy issues, and provide this dialogue as a resource for the American people, policymakers, and...

  • Member since 2018
  • 29 items added with 11,355 views
  • Aug 1, 2016

New York CItyOn July 20th, the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the New York Governor’s office, organized a workshop focused on New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. A number of leading energy professionals participated, including representatives from the utility sector, capital markets experts, as well as current and former state utility regulators. Participants worked together to craft practical policy recommendations designed to advance the various REV goals.

Significant dialogue centered around the need for technology and business innovation, with concerns stemming from a lack of utility shareholder funded research and development (R&D). In 2015, Some utilities spent 0.2% of their revenues on R&D. Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) often feel constrained by their obligation to seek maximum financial returns as quickly as possible for the benefit of their shareholders. Many experts agreed that the lack of greater R&D investment by IOUs is largely the result of antiquated policies that have not changed to reflect the world of alternatives and distributed energy resources.

R&D investment is also sometimes overlooked because regulators may seek to ensure reliability by incentivizing utilities to install more infrastructure and capital projects which guarantees a return for ratepayers that can be amortized over a shorter period of time when compared to R&D costs. Further, R&D is expensive, time consuming, and, by definition, often has a low probability of success. Finally, R&D risk allocation is an especially difficult issue if ratepayers ultimately absorb R&D costs but utilities receive the benefits of any innovative breakthroughs.

In response to some of these challenges, participants attempted to craft policies intended to change the approach and incentivize utilities to undertake more R&D.

Some recommendations that were proposed during the working session include:

1. Allow utilities to have unlimited upside with successful R&D efforts that become commercialized innovations by removing any reward limitations designed to cap a utility’s revenue;

2. Implement policies that mandate for a specific percentage of a utility’s revenue to be dedicated towards R&D efforts.

Note: does not endorse or support one policy recommendation over another. OEP collaborated with WEF for this workshop simply to bring energy professionals together to generate focused dialogue and an exchange of ideas.

  1. How important is it to encourage utilities to undertake more R&D? What new policies, if any, should state regulators adopt on this subject?
  2. What would be some principal elements of a shareholder funded utility R&D effort? How can utilities develop confidence that they will be able to retain the financial benefits of these investments?

Original Post's picture
Thank for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 2, 2016

Bill, do you see any possible downside to removing “any reward limitations designed to cap a utility’s revenue” when utilities function as natural monopolies? Let them charge captive ratepayers whatever they want simpy by adopting their own “commercialized innovations”? Sounds exceedingly naive and dangerous to me.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »