Enbala Blog

Energy Policies Aimed at 100% Renewables are Well Intended… But Perhaps Misguided…

By Enbala on Feb 17, 2017 11:48:51 AM

Cities around the world, including 22 cities in the United States and a growing number in Canada have pledged to go 100% renewable. It’s a noble, collaborative effort to be the cleanest, most environmentally sustainable cities on the planet, with an ultimate and cumulative end goal of each city doing its part to reduce worldwide carbon emissions.

Many cities that have made the pledge don’t yet have a route to an all-renewables, carbon-free destination. Some don’t have ownership of their electricity providers and thus have little or no influence over power fuel sources. Others depend today on energy sources that are based almost entirely on fossil fuel, making the renewables transition particularly difficult.  Still others are dealing with high permitting costs for popular renewable options like rooftop solar, as well with other regulatory obstacles. Technologically, anyone switching to a renewables-based grid must, by default, deal with the intermittency and reliability issues imposed by wind and solar. Even hydro electric energy is generally limited by the amount of water flowing in rivers, a quantity that can vary significantly over time.

A broader question, however, is why a fully renewable grid is more desirable than any other combination of zero-carbon energy sources. And what the overall effort and cost would be to decarbonize via that pathway alone.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Solar energy, renewable energy, wind energy, clean energy, distributed energy, CHP, carbon emissions, combined heat and power

Mix ‘n’ Match DERs

By Enbala on Nov 4, 2016 10:30:00 AM

Right now, analysts see enormous growth ahead for solar-plus-storage systems. A report by IMS Research forecasts the market for storing power from solar panels – which was less than $200 million in 2012 – to reach $19 billion by 2017. And, it’s easy to see why.

After all, rooftop solar panels are more valuable to people if they can store the excess energy produced and prolong the benefits of the on-site generation capacity. Plus, the flexibility of battery energy storage makes it truly valuable. With a quick response time and precise controllability, batteries can provide a wide set of grid services, so they can deliver value to multiple participants in the power system, including end-use customers, distribution utilities and wholesale market operators.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Solar energy, battery storage, DERs, energy balance, stacked value

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

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. 

INTRODUCTION:

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

Why Voltage Support Should Be Local

By Malcolm Metcalfe on May 12, 2016 10:30:00 AM

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: Utilities deliver three things: voltage, frequency and reliability. The first two items impact the third. And, frequency – at least in an interconnected system with plenty of inertia like what we have in continental North America – is pretty easy to manage because it’s the same throughout the power system. Here in the Western interconnection where I live, that means the frequency is the same in Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego and Vancouver, BC.

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Topics: Solar energy, DERMs, reactive power, Voltage control

Renewable curtailment: one symptom of grid troubles

By Enbala on Apr 29, 2016 1:08:54 PM

This past March, Chinese energy regulators put the brakes on further deployment of wind-energy projects in Mongolia during 2016. Why? Call it too much of a good thing. China, now the world leader in solar and wind installations, doesn’t have the transmission infrastructure necessary to transport electricity from the windswept Mongolian steppes to the power-hungry cities that need it.

During 2015, China installed some 33 gigawatts of wind turbines, which was more than half of new wind installations worldwide. But, in the same year, government statistics show “33.9 billion kilowatt-hours of wind-powered electricity was wasted … equivalent to the electricity consumed by 3 million American households a year,” according to an article published by InsideClimate News. ”That was about 15 percent of China's total wind power generation, up from 8 percent a year earlier.”

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Topics: Solar energy, grid optimization, wind energy, DERMs, grid balance

Renewable Energy a Threat to Conventional Utilities?

By Enbala on Apr 25, 2016 11:59:50 AM

This past Earth Day, plenty of power system participants celebrated our lovely planet. PECO used the date to launch it’s new Solar Stakeholder Collaborative. Louisville Gas & Electric sponsored a do at the Louisville Zoo. First Energy held EarthFest, Ohio's largest environmental education event, for some of its six million customers. Even California’s Independent System Operator (CAISO) used the date to push eco-friendly living. It issued its summer power supply forecast via a press release that sported the headline, “Energy Conservation: What’s Good for the Planet is Good for the Power Grid.”

Ultimately, that’s true. Ironically, a recent survey by the consultancy West Monroe Partners found that most utilities treat DERs -- like customer-sited solar -- as a threat. The same survey shows that only 3 percent of executives who responded view the growth of DER as an opportunity.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Solar energy, DERs, DERMs

Smart Inverters: Here today for tomorrow

By Enbala on Apr 14, 2016 5:33:22 PM

Here’s something that’s not so smart about smart inverters: Many people assume we can’t take advantage of the voltage and frequency benefits they could offer grid operators because regulations get in the way. But, even in jurisdictions where regulations hamper autonomous operation of smart inverters, there’s still a way you could gain benefit from them. Just hook them up to a DER-management platform like Symphony by Enbala.

What could be could be

For those who don’t know much about smart inverters, here’s a quick look at what they are and what they can do.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Distributed energy resource management, Solar energy, DERs, smart inverters

Variable Generation Issues Meet Their Match: Smart Inverters

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Mar 8, 2016 11:04:35 AM

INTRODUCTION:

Do you remember that outage that left some 50 million people in the dark on August 14, 2003? It took down 61,900 megawatts of load in eight eastern U.S. states and the Canadian Province of Ontario. The financial impact was as high as $10 billion in the U.S. and $2.3 billion up north. When government researchers from the U.S. and Canada examined the event, they reported that insufficient reactive power was one of the factors leading to it.

So, here’s the big question: When rooftop solar installations start causing localized voltage headaches for utilities, will there be enough local reactive power to bump that voltage up? There will if we get smart inverters along with new solar deployments.

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Topics: Solar energy, DERs, smart inverters, voltage regulation, grid balance

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