How to Integrate Distributed Energy Resources

To fully realize the value of distributed resources, utilities will need to integrate distributed energy resources in the planning and operation of the electricity grid.
Published: Mon 24 Feb 2014

The Electric Power Research Institute has released a study on the transformation of the electric power grid and how the utility can prepare itself in the face of distributed energy resources development and prosumer growth.

The rapid growth of Distributed Energy Resources, such as rooftop solar panels and high tech microgrids are changing the structure of the electric grid as we know it. While these technologies are developing, very few utilities are investigating how they can be integrated into the electric power systems so that customers can enjoy the benefit of both the central power system and the distributed technologies in the most cost-effective way.

The potential for this “integrated grid” can only be realised if there is a transformation in the ways that electric power is delivered and consumed. Grid operators should treat distributed supplies like any other supply source-it must be fully integrated into transmission and distribution network operations systems.

“The grid is expected to change in different, perhaps fundamental ways, requiring a careful assessment of the costs and opportunities of different technological and policy pathways to fully integrate distributed energy resources into the electric power system,” explains Dr. Michael Howard, President and CEO of EPRI. “If we are going to realize the full value of these resources, while at the same time continue to provide affordable and reliable electricity, we need to integrate them into every aspect of grid planning, operations and policy.”

Utilities need to acknowledge that the microgrid and centralized systems can be complementary and not competitive. Both systems can benefit the customer. By integrating them, the benefit to all customers will be enhanced. The research points out that utilities need to understand that failure to integrate fully could lead to higher costs and lower reliability. Rather than applying existing solutions to a new problem, utilities should look for innovative and cost-effective solutions that are designed to solve or mitigate the problem.

We discuss distribution generation as an opportunity for the utility to transform its business model in Distributed Generation Opens a Floodgate of Opportunity.

The paper released today, which is the first in a series of integrated grid studies from EPRI, outlines an action plan that needs to be addressed by all stakeholders with examples to support fact-based discussions. The study leverages EPRI research in this area and the lessons learned from the circumstances surrounding Germany’s extensive deployment of distributed solar PV and wind that offers important lessons about the technical and economic value of planning for integration of distributed energy resources.

Collaborative solutions must be developed and the research suggests the following:

 

  • Updating interconnection rules and communication standards that enable distributed resources to integrate with the grid;

  • Deploying advanced distribution and reliability technologies that provide flexibility and connectivity for distributed resources and system operators;

  • Integrating distributed energy resources into grid planning and operation;

  • Informing policy and regulation to enable transformation to the integrated grid.

 

When fully integrated with today’s system, these resources can contribute more effectively to system capacity, flexibility, efficiency and environmental attributes.

 

Further reading:

EPRI-The Integrated Grid