Keeping up with the influx of new information on distributed energy resources (DERs) can be daunting. DERs are physical and virtual assets that are deployed across the distribution grid, typically close to load, and usually behind the meter, which can be used individually or in aggregate to provide value to the grid, individual customers, or both. A particular industry interest seems to be centered on DERs — such as solar, storage, energy efficiency, and demand management — that can be aggregated to provide services to the electric grid.
The energy industry’s focus on DERs is a function of how important it’s become to understand the potential capabilities they have to offer. In 2015, U.S. electric utilities spent $103 billion in capital expenditures to maintain and upgrade the grid — and they now expect average annual spending of around $100 billion through 2018, even as growth in electricity demand slows.
These two trends combined could raise retail rates significantly for electricity customers, as much as 15% to 30% through 2030, according to one study. To modernize the grid for two-way energy flows and incorporate new, connected technologies, while maintaining minimal rate impacts, all available resources, including DERs, need to be put to best use.
To reach this goal, we need to start with a common base of foundational knowledge on DERs -- key articles and resources that are easily available to all stakeholders -- which is the purpose behind this piece.