Electric utilities are facing a variety of challenges because of rising amounts of solar, storage and other distributed energy technologies on their systems. In response, they are speeding their integration planning efforts. That is the finding of a new paper from Black & Veatch and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).
The “Planning for the Distributed Energy Future” white paper is based on interviews with leaders at five large U.S. utilities. It profiles emerging utility planning practices for distributed energy resources (DERs), including solar, non-solar distributed generation, energy storage, electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, demand response, combined heat and power, and energy efficiency.
“A growing number of utilities recognize that increased DER penetration will significantly affect the grid,” says Robert Brnilovich, vice president of Black & Veatch’s management consulting business.
“What we see in the field – and this report confirms – is that utilities need to have a deep understanding not only of new distributed technologies, but of their customers’ evolving interests and expectations. Successful planning involves a fine balance of both,” adds Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA. “The mix of distributed resources will vary between regions and utilities. The integrated approach in this report can help a broad range of stakeholders unlock the opportunities these technologies offer to develop new products and services that benefit customers and the grid.”
According to Black & Veatch, the new planning model involves modeling distribution grid impacts of DERs, incorporating regulatory and rate changes into the planning process, and formulating a business strategy toward DER integration – including any changes to utility operations and organizational structures.
The paper finds that proactive planning has benefits for utilities facing increased DER penetration. It can enable electric utilities to streamline DER deployment and maintain high reliability. They may also be able to take advantage of new opportunities tied to market change.
The report is available for download here.