• DER Technologies
  • Utilities
  • Grid Resilience

Enabling the Clean Energy Transition with a Grid-Edge DER Management System

Roberto Rodriguez Labastida
Aug 06, 2021


Power pylon

In July 2021, I had the pleasure to sit on a panel with Tyler Rogers (Senior Director, Utility Sales at EnergyHub) and Jay Delaney (Supervisor, Customer Solutions at Arizona Public Service [APS]). In my talk, I highlighted that distributed energy resources (DER) are here to stay. Based on Guidehouse Insights’ report, DER Deployment Database 1Q21, the North American DER market will likely increase at a compound annual growth rate of 9.3% through 2030. In 2021, Guidehouse Insights expects 38.4 GW of additional DER capacity. With solar economics already well established in some regions and vehicle electrification just beginning it is easy to see why DER deployments have so much room to grow.

Successful DER Management Must Evolve

APS acknowledged this DER deployment trend early, and has been working with its customers to manage potential issues caused by DER and variable renewables with an integrated DER program supported by EnergyHub. Initially, this was a traditional demand response program, albeit the program manages thousands of devices automatically. However, the program has been evolving to include more DER classes like batteries and water heaters. It has also added more advanced functionality, like precooling through smarter thermostat functions.

With its DER programs, APS has managed to break the back of the duck curve by shifting residential smart loads to midday to help use some clean solar electricity that otherwise would be wasted, which helps decarbonize the grid. At the same time, this method reduces the steep ramps (duck curve neck) created by starting AC units when people get home while solar generation falls as the sun sets.

DER Management Is Core to Utility Strategies

Something highlighted during the talk was how DER programs and their management tools are leaving the operations room and becoming a core part of a utility’s daily activities. Billing and marketing are obvious areas where DER programs, which rely on engaging utility customers, have made an impact. Other areas like trading are benefiting from the better situational awareness and potential load shifting capabilities brought by the grid-edge DER management tools.

With the expected growth rates of DER and the electrification of transport just around the corner, utilities need to prepare to be the center of the transition. Grid-edge DER management systems can help utilities play defense and manage DER assets to stop potential problems in the grid and can use the DER assets for their advantage. Doing so would create better relationships with customers while reducing costs. The webinar recording can be accessed here.