Customers Offer Clues

Determining the effects of DERs


Distributed energy resources (DERs) are valuable components of the modern power grid. They are active players in electricity markets and important tools for supporting grid operations. Last week Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), and engineering firm Black & Veatch produced a report that outlines a new model for utilities hoping to incorporate information about customers with DERs into their planning process.

The report is the result of a year-long study. Traditional utility distribution grid planning begins with power flow models and engineering estimates. SMUD’s integrates data sources from both the energy utility and customers. The utility’s goal is to use the information to predict DER adoption rates over the course of the next decade, as well as future DERs concentrations by neighborhood. With the additional information, it hopes to model the impact that DERs might have on the utility’s distribution network and bottom-line.

Interesting findings from the report include the fact that DER impacts should be addressed individually as well as collectively since solar in particular can affect the ramping requirements and flatten the utility’s net load. Furthermore, the study shows that changes in rate structures and business models will need to adapt in order to be sustainable with the addition of more DER technologies.

SEPA’s protocol for dealing with DERs includes evaluating them as grid assets, integrating customer insights, and reconfiguring the utility’s standard operating practices. SMUD has incorporated all three elements in this report.

“SMUD also needs to consider operational and reliability issues as we plan our utility system for DERs, which is why this case study is an important first step to helping SMUD understand what DERs will mean going forward,” said Paul Lau, the utility’s chief grid strategy and operations officer in a statement.

The study provides evidence that DER analysis can benefit utilities in a myriad of ways, by identifying potential problems, improving long-range planning, and assisting in the development of policies and programs.

Could this integration of customer and utility data serve as a model for other organizations?


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