According to FERC’s most recent "Demand Response and Advanced Metering Assessment," 74 percent of the potential peak reduction in retail demand-management programs comes from C&I customers. That means that the biggest, most valuable energy customers are also the most likely allies in a demand response initiative.
Demand side management (DSM) is the umbrella term for the various methods that power providers employ to get customers to curb consumption. It’s been around since the 1970s, notes Joseph Eto, a Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researcher who wrote a detailed history of it in 1996. He counts conservation education, energy audits, efficiency freebies, financial assistance and time-based tariffs among the forms of DSM utilities use.
Eto also covers the technological approaches designed to achieve objectives like load shifting, peak reduction and off-peak consumption increases.
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.
A NEW BUSINESS MODEL? THE UTILITY AS THE NETWORK ORCHESTRATOR:
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of articles and blogs these days begin with the now-obvious observation that the grid is moving from a centralized model to a decentralized one. Often, these pronouncements are offered in a tone that seems like the speaker is wrinkling his brow with worry, wringing his hands … and probably sweating a little, too. Such anxiety is likely over doing it.
In reality, the opportunities presented by distributed energy resources (DERs) far outweigh the challenges that ubiquitous adoption of them may bring. DERs are going to help us green up our grid with more renewables, clean up our atmosphere, improve reliability and form new alliances between power providers and customers.
To bring these benefits about, power providers will need to expand their business models a little. Instead of being asset builders who make their money off the generation they construct and energy they send whizzing down the power line, it’s time to look at making money from the role of orchestrators who direct the energy, storage and flexibility DERs can deliver.
Given the proliferation of renewables — plus the dramatic growth rates predicted for solar and wind power over the next year or two — plenty of people are looking to storage as the way to save us from renewable intermittency. But, storage is pricey. And, given the potential for long stretches of inclement weather that knocks solar PV output down or fails to turn the wind turbines, the storage we have available today is unlikely to be sufficient for the power grid’s needs.
When it comes to planning for distributed energy resources (DERs), the State of California is one to watch. In 2015, major electric utilities submitted extensive plans for integration of distributed energy resources (DERs), with special focus on how such technologies will change planning for the last-mile distribution system and what process changes will be necessary.
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.
Anyone who’s seen the California ISO “Duck Curve” knows south-facing roof-top solar is not particularly good for utilities. The problem, which appears so clearly in the eloquent graph below, is that daily peak continues to grow, so utilities still have to build out new generation, transmission and distribution facilities. But, household solar reduces overall energy sales, and this is where most of the money comes from to pay for the new capacity. Some utilities are referring to this as the “death spiral.”