It’s a new year, folks, and time to learn from the ups and downs of the previous 12 months and set a course for a successful 2017. We spent some time at the end of 2016 working with Edison Foundation’s Institute for Electric Innovation (IEI) on a book titled “Thought Leaders Speak Out: Key Trends Driving Change in the Electric Power Industry.” Enbala’s contribution was a chapter exploring the future of distributed energy in a modern grid.
Distributed Energy Resources: They Are Both the Challenge and the Solution
There are several converging trends driving the increasingly rapid adoption of distributed energy resources as a means to meet the world’s energy efficiency, grid reliability and greenhouse gas emission goals. For one, consumers are demanding more energy-conserving distributed generation options, and the investment costs are dropping rapidly to make them more affordable. This, combined with clean power mandates and grid security concerns, have spurred game-changing regulatory changes that recognize the value of DERs as an integral component of the grid edge ecosystem. Business models are also changing, leading utilities to view DERs as financially-driven decisions and opportunities to move beyond traditional cost-of-service thinking.
The Utility Path Forward
There have been large strides in the growth of DERs, and as we evolve beyond utility demonstration projects into the mainstream, progress will be even more impressive. Enbala anticipates that the industry will experience three major waves in the continual growth of distributed energy resources. Wave one will involve continued improvements in the management of voltage to allow the connection of an unlimited amount of DERs on the grid.
Wave 2 takes DER management to the distribution side of the grid to smooth load and provide local firming for intermittent sources. This reduces marginal losses and results in a less volatile load on the grid. Once we see large-scale DER growth on the distribution network, we’ll advance to Wave 3, where we are managing, controlling and making DERs an integral part of the distribution system.
With Wave 3 will come robust optimization of the grid in a way that fundamentally shifts today’s dynamic of generation following load to one where load follows generation. This will reduce grid volatility on our grid (which currently runs at an average 50% capacity factor) and will allow the current grid to deliver far more energy.
The full article provides a more information and insight into our perspective on the future of distributed energy. We invite you to read the full chapter that we authored.
You can also find the full book on IEI’s webpage.