Enbala Blog

Adding PV to the grid: It takes more than firming

By Enbala on Oct 19, 2016 11:20:00 AM

If you’re like most people who’ve gone to a conference lately – or read this blog from its inception – you’ve already heard warnings about what could happen to grid voltage and stability when stray clouds waft over neighborhood solar arrays and block PV generation. The sudden drop of renewable power is what many people point to as the key challenge of variable generation resources.

After all, that’s why utilities are looking for ways to “firm” renewable generation, which is the process of backing variable resources up with some combination of fast-ramping power or demand-side management to jump in when power production subsides. But, while loss of power gets most of the attention, over-production is an equally daunting challenge for grid operators.

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Topics: photovoltaic, Solar, DERs, renewable firming, DERMs

Distributed Energy Resources: The Energy Efficiency Story

By Ginger Juhl on Oct 5, 2016 10:30:00 AM

Today, October 5, is the inaugural Energy Efficiency Day 2016, and the perfect time to talk about what we are doing - in conjunction with our customers - to reduce traditional energy consumption and make the world a better place for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.

Energy Efficiency Day is a collaborative effort of regional and national organizations working to promote energy efficiency, including many that we strongly support. This includes the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Advanced Energy Economy, the Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations, Appliance Standards Awareness Project, E4TheFuture, Natural Resources Defense Council, and a very long list of cities, utilities, universities, associations and companies like ours who share a common mission with sustainability at its core. You’ll see most of us writing, tweeting and otherwise sharing our energy efficiency stories today – stories about using better technology and practices so that less energy is consumed to accomplish the same tasks, while continuing to keep homes and businesses comfortable.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, DERs, distributed energy, energy efficiency

Three Best Practices for IT/OT Convergence in a Distributed Energy World

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Sep 29, 2016 1:29:20 PM

Ten years ago or so, when utility workers first started talking about IT/OT convergence, conversations revolved around the wealth of data streaming into utility offices from advanced metering infrastructure and remote sensors.

With AMI, for instance, utility engineers could suddenly see consumption in 15-minute increments, allowing them to leverage that data for things like load studies and distribution-system transformer sizing. Utility managers could use the blink counts from advanced meters to direct tree-trimming crews, letting them know there was a pretty good chance wayward branches were causing momentary outages on a feeder. Or, they could use the last-gasp signals to more quickly triangulate an outage and dispatch restoration crews more efficiently.

IT/OT convergence is what happens when IT and OT drop the silo walls to unite systems such as outage management with front-end, field technology like advanced meters or distribution system assets. But, IT/OT convergence has begun to expand as generation assets begin to proliferate behind the meter, and IT systems will be needed to help accommodate and control these assets. The convergence is becoming more complex and all-encompassing, so here are a few pointers for utility mangers to keep in mind.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, DERs, DERMs, IT/OT, IT/OT Convergence

The Energy Curtailment That Nobody Noticed

By Enbala on Sep 20, 2016 10:49:37 AM

There’s a good reason that traditional demand response (DR) programs only ask C&I customers to curtail energy usage a few times each year. Traditional DR is painful. It’s a no-holds-barred, shut down that conveyor belt, stop production, turn off the air conditioner and send people home kind of deal. It is, by definition, disruptive. And, frankly, not every organization can afford to have its business endure even a few interruptions a year.

But, DR doesn’t need to be disruptive, and to get the most out of today’s demand management technology, we really need to think of curtailment events as a day-to-day method of grid support instead of troublesome headaches that must be painfully tolerated.

That’s what one East Coast utility is doing with the Symphony by EnbalaTM distributed energy resource management platform (DERMS). By aggregating small amounts of response from many different devices in one site, a promising pilot is showing that curtailment can be both effective and invisible to customers.

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Topics: Distributed energy resource management, demand management, DERMs, demand response, energy curtailment, energy consumption management

DERMS: Coming Soon to Your Utility’s IT/OT Convergence

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Sep 8, 2016 1:38:22 PM

Last year, analysts at Gartner placed IT/OT convergence on their Top-10 list of trends affecting the utilities industry. Actually, it’s been in progress for nearly a decade but, now more than ever, IT/OT integration looms as a crucial utility move. What’s more, it is factors outside utility walls that are rousing such urgency. What are they? Look around your neighborhood. If you see a lot of rooftop solar panels, some of those factors are sitting right in front of you.

What’s more, GTM Research forecasts a 94 percent increase in new PV installations in the U.S. during 2016. Worldwide, Navigant Research says, “Annual installed capacity across the global distributed energy resource (DER) market is expected to grow from 136.4 GW in 2015 to 530.7 GW in 2024, representing $1.9 trillion in cumulative investment over the next 10 years." 

What does this have to do with IT/OT convergence?

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Distributed energy resource management, Solar energy, DERs, renewable firming, smart inverters, DERMs, IT/OT, IT/OT Convergence, energy aggregation

Spock or Scotty: Which character fits your organization?

By Enbala on Aug 29, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Raise your hand if you sometimes feel like Mr. Scott from the original Star Trek series, frantically trying to keep the engines roaring while the ship takes one phaser hit after another: If you did raise your hand, you’re not alone. There are plenty of reasons utilities might be playing the Mr. Scott role.

One is under investment in infrastructure, which was named as the top concern by 47 percent of utility executives who answered a Utility Dive survey late in 2015. Another is what the California Independent System Operator calls the Duck Curve. It shows how behind-the-meter solar installations are creating daytime over-generation on the California grid and, because rooftop solar quits generating power about the same time people come home and start using more of it, there are steep ramps at the end of the day.

Demand response programs could help utilities deal with these issues. But, utilities that are doing simple demand response are kind of like Star Trek’s Scotty. They’re just getting by, handling one crisis after another, giving it all she’s got, Captain. “I don’t think she can take any more!”

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Solar energy, DERs, virtual power plant

Load, the oft-overlooked distributed energy resource

By Enbala on Aug 17, 2016 2:00:00 PM


Researchers at DNV-GL did a fine report for the New York Independent System Operator a few years ago. Titled A Review of Distributed Energy Resources, it offered this definition of the various distributed energy resources (DERs) examined in the report:

“… DER technologies are defined as ‘behind-the-meter’ power generation and storage resources typically located on an end-use customer’s premises and operated for the purpose of supplying all or a portion of the customer’s electric load. Such resources may also be capable of injecting power into the transmission and/or distribution system or into a non-utility local network in parallel with the utility grid. These DERs include such technologies as solar photovoltaic (PV), combined heat and power (CHP) or cogeneration systems, microgrids, wind turbines, micro turbines, back-up generators and energy storage.”

Granted, the research team did acknowledge that some sources – including the New York Public Service Commission – included customer load in its list of DERs, but load wasn’t one of the DERs covered in the report. That’s too bad because load can hold its own against other DERs for a variety of grid-supportive purposes.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, process storage, DERs, renewable firming, demand management, DERMs, grid balance, voltage management, regulation service, flexible load, fast ramping

Capturing the Full Benefits of Demand Flexibility

By Ginger Juhl on Aug 11, 2016 11:00:00 AM

This blog was co-authored by Enbala and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). Enbala extends its heartfelt thanks to the Institute for the insights and effort that went into creating this piece. 


Demand flexibility - allowing household devices like HVAC systems and smart appliances to interact with the electric grid in response to real-time price changes - can save customers money and lower the overall cost of electricity. The Rocky Mountain Institute's recent paper, The Economics of Demand Flexibility, analyzed the economics of making common household loads controllable and responsive to electricity price signals. The Institute found that just making two devices flexible, i.e., smart thermostats that could flex an HVAC system’s output up or down by 2 degrees and smart water heaters that could change the timing of water heating, could lower system-wide peak demand by eight percent and save $10–15 billion in costs to the grid annually. 

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Topics: Distributed energy resource management, Solar energy, battery storage, DERs, demand management, DERMs, peak load management, demand flexibility, Symphony by Enbala, Rocky Mountain Institute, distributed energy

Fight, flight or innovate: How will utilities deal with DERs?

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Aug 3, 2016 4:06:42 PM


Fight or flight may be the two most common reactions mammals have when facing a threat, but for utilities that perceive distributed energy resources (DERs) as risky to business, there’s another option: innovate.

The rapid pace of disruption

Tony Seba, a clean-technology thought leader, author and Stanford University instructor, believes that the age of what he calls “participatory energy” – user-centric generation, storage, management and energy-market participation – will eclipse the utility-centric model of today by 2030.  

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Topics: distributed energy resources, DERs, utility of the future, utility innovation

What if Disruptive Energy Technology Achieved 1% of Apple’s iMac numbers?

By J.T. Thompson on Jul 26, 2016 11:00:00 AM

On one of my many travels recently, I got a chance to catch up on some movies that I had been meaning to watch.  One of those movies was “Steve Jobs.”  This movie, starring Michael Fassbender, gives an inside look at one of the true innovators of our time. 

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Distributed energy resource management, DERs

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