(Editor’s Note: the Omnetric Group report will be at the heart of a POWERGRID International webcast 2 p.m. CT on Tuesday, June 19. The event will feature experts from DTE Energy and Omnetric. Go here to register.)
All’s that green is good when it comes to the electric power industry, renewable enthusiasts tell us every day. The future is clean and bright and all works out in the end.
Is that really true? Maybe not. A new report by Omnetric Group tackles what many are thinking if not saying: that the proliferation of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar may reduce carbon footprints, but it creates challenges in the grid that aren’t easily rectified without tremendous change and capital.
Energy management firm Omnetric Group’s research white paper, “Watch Out Congestion Ahead: Grid Management in Times of Customer Centricity,” warns that too much distributed generation—some unaccounted for—can adversely impact frequency and voltage.
“The first approach to leveraging flexibility to manage congestion will likely involve installing switches and using a SCADA system to operate them remotely to reconfigure the grid and more evenly load grid assets,” the white paper reads. “Another approach would leverage meters, communication and SCADA to enable reconfiguration actions such as load adjustment through EV charging or curtailment.”
The contributors to the report—which includes grid experts from Con Edison, Duke Energy, DTE Energy, Entergy and NV Energy—focus on the ways that control technologies and infrastructure investment can help mitigate the surge of two-way and intermittent flow on the distribution systems of utilities. Data, for sure, will drive the response.
Yet software alone will not the solve the challenges, it warned.
“So, the edge of the grid needs to become smarter—both more intelligent and faster,” the paper reads. “There’s a multitude of small assets and interconnections within the distribution grid that cannot be controlled by a central intelligence system. It makes sense to collect the right data and enable autonomous management of smaller events, directly at point of need.”
In the old, pre-renewable days, the grid operators knew where the generation was coming from and where it was going, down to the kWh. Nowadays the system is ever fragmenting and stretching, from wind, solar, energy storage and, eventually, more and more electric vehicles. Consumers or prosumers, pick your term, need to know how their new-fangled devices will impact the grid from the inside out.
Respondents to the Omnetric research highlighted the utility’s growing role as a kind of “orchestra leader” coordinating all the moving parts of the grid “bandstand.” Customers, generators, utilities and vendors must help coordinate the demand-and-supply balance.
Real demand charges and incentives can play a role in the transactive future to help balance out the grid in a market-driven way.
“We need a close collaboration between all the different players to manage the ecosystem,” the paper reads. “Incentives need to be truly value-driven to sustainably change participants’ behavior.”
A future story in Electric Light and Power will dive deeper into the report. Omnetric is a joint venture of Siemens and Accenture. Go www.omnetric.com for more information on the white paper.