Enbala Blog

Malcolm Metcalfe

Malcolm Metcalfe, Founder and Chief Research Officer Enbala’s founder is Malcolm Metcalfe LVO, P. Eng., a Professional Engineer with close to 40 years of experience in energy and related systems. He is responsible for staying current on the energy market and developing innovative solutions to maximize its efficiency and reliability.Malcolm has worked in a variety of management positions for BC Hydro, Shell Canada and CP/Canadian Airlines. Malcolm was named in the Queen's Birthday Honors List for 1999 and was inducted as a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in October 1999.
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Recent Posts

Transitioning the Energy Economy: One Very Logical Approach

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Jan 18, 2017 12:58:53 PM

Canada’s Prime Minister made a statement recently that caused some problems in parts of Canada. The comment -- “We need to phase out fossil fuel…” -- has raised strong opposition in Alberta, the province that has largely powered the Canadian economy in recent years, based almost entirely on fossil fuel.

Confusing messages are being delivered. Science has told us that we need to REDUCE EMISSIONS. Emissions can be reduced in two ways: use less fuel or use it more efficiently. Politicians, almost uniformly, seem to have decided that the solution is to eliminate fossil fuel and replace it with renewable energy. This transition may be a lot more difficult, time consuming and costly than it may initially appear.

Ontario is perhaps one good example. A large expenditure in wind capacity seems linked to very high electricity prices in the very areas where the wind turbines are located. Germany has seen dramatic increases in electricity costs as the country has increased its use of solar and wind capacity to generate electricity.

The electric system seems to be a scapegoat, largely because in the US, it is the single largest source of emissions. Yet it delivers only a fraction of the energy needed to meet the total energy required.

Surely there is a better way to reduce emissions without producing disruptive cost increases and heavy restrictions on supply.

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Topics: DERs, clean energy, distributed energy, energy efficiency, fossil fuel emissions, energy conservation

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

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Sep 29, 2016 11:29:20 AM

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

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

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Sep 8, 2016 11:38:22 AM

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

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

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Aug 3, 2016 2:06:42 PM

INTRODUCTION:

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

Demand-side resources are key to system flexibility

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Jul 19, 2016 11:00:00 AM

The National Renewable Energy Lab has a great paper titled Flexibility in 21st Century Power Systems. The paper addresses three grid requirements to accommodate increasing numbers of variable generation resources like wind and solar energy.

  1. The first among those requirements is flexible generation. We need power plants that can run efficiently with a very low output level and ramp rapidly from those deep turn-down rates.
  2. We also need flexible transmission to carry power without bottlenecks and facilitate access to a broad range of balancing resources. That’s requirement number two.
  3. And, finally, the NREL authors say requirement number three is flexible demand-side resources. Those resources include storage, responsive distributed generation and loads engaged in demand response programs that can support the grid by responding to market signals or direct load control.

Amen to requirement number three.

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Topics: distributed energy resources, Distributed energy resource management, DERs, demand side management, DERMs, demand response

Why Voltage Support Should Be Local

By Malcolm Metcalfe on May 12, 2016 8:30:00 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

Variable Generation Issues Meet Their Match: Smart Inverters

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Mar 8, 2016 9:04:35 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

Distributed intelligence: You can’t really be smart without it

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Dec 17, 2015 1:14:45 PM

Not long ago, one of the largest electric utilities in California told me they have 180,000 generating sites, and they expect this to almost triple by 2025. That’s just one of many reasons I believe no grid optimization can truly occur without distributed intelligence and control in grid-edge devices.


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Topics: distributed energy resources, Solar, DERs, distributed intelligence, grid edge, grid optimization

The Economics of Hybrid Storage

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Dec 8, 2015 10:06:04 AM

 

Hybrid storage – the process that leverages the flexibility of behind-the-meter resources to support grid services – is dramatically less expensive than other generation or storage options, plus it has other benefits. On the price side, Enbala has found that our hybrid storage solution typically costs as much as six times less than peaker plants and more than a third less than utility-scale storage options. By the numbers, that means utilities would spend some $900 per kW for a peaker, $500 per kW for utility-scale battery storage and $150 per kW for Enbala.

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Topics: Distributed energy resource management, Solar, battery storage

Process Storage: The Missing Link in the Utility Energy Portfolio.

By Malcolm Metcalfe on Nov 12, 2015 10:31:31 AM

Some people hear the word “storage,” and all they think of is batteries. Most utility people aren’t that short sighted. They’ll remember mechanical forms of storage, like flywheels or the water trapped behind a dam. But – and I admit I’m a little partial here – I think the most efficient storage is process storage, or the storage inherent in the flexibility of controlled loads.

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