By Andy Bennett, CEO of mPrest, Inc.
As a new generation of distributed energy resources (DERs) enter the North American grid and new global DER capacity additions are expected to pass new centralized generation capacity additions annually in 2021, utilities and grid operators cannot afford to wait to integrate distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) into their existing infrastructure. Acting as a single, orchestrated and holistic solution, DERMS can support a sustainable, low-carbon system while increasing grid reliability, flexibility, and hosting capacity.
The Case for DERMS
Currently, advanced distribution management systems (ADMS), which operators use to monitor and react to grid events, do not scale at the speed required to manage and integrate new classes of DERs in today’s environment. DERMS serve as a solution addressing the technical, financial and regulatory challenges that arise from accelerated global DER demand. Artificial intelligence-powered algorithms and automation capabilities make it possible for DERMS to respond to usage patterns and customer demand in real-time, by monitoring and adapting based on learned insights. What’s more, operators can integrate DERMS without replacing existing systems and build a new orchestration process that works with legacy assets seamlessly.
DERs are quickly becoming the foundation of today’s energy market, enabling us to generate, consume and store electricity using varied technology categories — everything from grid-connected residential solar plus storage assets to electric vehicles — across decentralized locations. Using a DERMS, energy consumers that are typically passive become active prosumers. To manage increased DER adoption and, as a result, increased generation across distributed locations and intermittent technologies, DER aggregation is essential. Not only do DERMS make this possible, they provide operators with insights to improve customer interaction and synchronization of these assets.
Deferred Capital Costs
While integrating a high volume of DER can strain grid infrastructure, one of the benefits of DERMS is that they supply the utility industry with DER awareness and analytics. This includes available flexibility and susceptibility for dispatch planning and DER telemetry and control. Utilities who choose DERMS are, in turn, supporting generation, infrastructure, and other capital cost deferrals.
Unstable grids and reliability issues can result from influxes of improperly-managed distributed generation technologies. In order to better manage grid flexibility and mitigate outages and other adverse events, utilities must invest in DERMS. A utility operator can use DERMS surgically to support operational needs, meeting demand through prioritization aggregation of resources, all with the overall goal of minimizing disruptions.
The Urgent Need
Often, by waiting to integrate a DERMS after more DERs are introduced to a grid, utility leaders end up facing the challenge of implementing a new management system for assets that may already be failing. Prolonging this process only furthers damage to existing infrastructures and serves to exacerbate problems which integrating a DERMS could immediately address. There is no need to wait. Installing DERMS allows for a possible crisis to be identified and addressed ahead of time, significantly decreasing the chances of a customer-visible problem occurring.
Automated DERMS are considered “system of systems,” integrating with legacy technologies like SCADA, DMS and ADMS as well as DER, VPPs and microgrid management systems. While ADMS and DERMS are often seen as technologies that must work together to produce the best results, DERMS benefits can be achieved with or without an ADMS. Working with new and old systems, a DERMS can efficiently scale and manage new DER classes as they become available and analyze and adjust processes based on grid behavior. With these real-world insights in hand, utilities can better engage with providers, customers, regulators and legislators to identify new approaches and solutions that take the goals of all stakeholders into account.
Existing solutions ensure a smooth transition for operators looking to bring new DER online and manage them with little to no grid disruptions. DER integration is accelerating in today’s market — rapid growth of installations, shifting incentive programs and legislative action will only boost this momentum. Even utilities with lower DER penetration should look to implement DERMS sooner rather than later.
As extreme weather events only become more frequent and intense, grid modernization solutions to withstand these crises are becoming more crucial. What’s more, in September 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved Order 2222, which permitted the competition of DER aggregators in all regional wholesale electric markets. External factors and renewed focus on legislation that promotes adoption of clean energy sources and technologies are underscoring a known need for a more decarbonized and digitized grid. Utilities and grid operators must ride this wave of momentum and act quickly to adopt DERMS and other automated, grid-edge orchestration platforms to keep pace with the national digitization and decarbonization movement.
Andy Bennett is CEO of mPrest, Inc., a developer of distributed asset orchestration and optimization software. Andy is a highly accomplished executive in the energy and software market. Most recently, he was responsible for running global sales for the AI Applications business unit at IBM, focused on enterprise asset management, IoT, and supply chain management. Prior to IBM, Andy served as the SVP of Energy for Schneider Electric North America, where he joined following its acquisition of Telvent where he had managed its utility business. Andy is based in Boulder, CO as the latest member of mPrest’s growing North America-based team.