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Summer of Uncertainty Signals Importance of iDER Programming

Jessie Mehrhoff
Jul 30, 2020

Guidehouse Insights

While the pandemic continues to force the transformation of global industries, summer in the northern hemisphere remains uncertain for some grid operators. Electricity demand has shifted from the commercial to the residential segment, and customers are still looking for new ways to save on utility bills as they stay at home.

Guidehouse Insights finds that the demand for utility assets, including battery storage, has not slowed dramatically. Some providers see an increase in engagement with utilities’ online marketplaces as customers look to implement smart home energy management devices. The continued installation of various distributed energy resources (DER) signals the need for grid operators to keep exploring opportunities to integrate assets into their grid management strategies. A new Guidehouse Insights white paper examines the importance of strategically implemented integrated DER (iDER) programs; iDER is anticipated to become more important as utilities manage changing load dynamics throughout and beyond this summer.

iDER Programs Give Utilities Insight into Happenings Behind-the-Meter

As customer usage patterns shift this summer, access to behind-the-meter resources will allow utilities to forecast and respond quickly to fluctuations in electricity demand. As more distributed and intermittent generation resourses connect to the grid, iDER programs enable utilities to orchestrate DER in response to changes in electricity supply. These programs incentivize customers for granting the utility access to their behind-the-meter DER. While iDER programs facilitate customers granting their utilities access to battery storage, EVs, smart thermostats, and more, the utility coordinates and manages devices in accordance with ever-changing grid needs.

DER integration platforms, notably DER management systems (DERMSs), identify and aggregate behind-the-meter resources while prioritizing the engagement of those most critical and capable of meeting specific grid needs. DERMS platforms improve utilities’ situational awareness and on-demand flexible capacity activation through automated DER control.

Flexible Capacity Activation: From Visibility to Autonomous Control

Flexible Capacity Activation—From Visibility to Autonomous Control

(Source: Guidehouse Insights)

iDER Programs Should Scale to Meet Future Utility Needs

iDER programs should be long-lasting and flexible to meet the ever-changing needs of a utility. By using a DERMS, utilities can enable the buildout of scalable iDER programs that can include new devices and new vendors, increasing the number of participating assets. Scalable iDER programs will provide utilities with new opportunities to:

  • Better balance new renewable generation with electricity demand
  • Address capacity constraints
  • Access more behind-the-meter devices
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Provide customers with tailored engagement opportunities
  • Boost customer satisfaction

These benefits are not mutually exclusive and can be stacked by utilities and their customers. Added or stacked value can be exceptionally important during and after the economic impacts and energy usage effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

iDER programs can improve situational awareness, provide utilities with continuous economic dispatch capabilities, engage proactive DER-aware grid planning, and integrate management platforms such as DERMSs and advanced distribution management systems. Despite the innumerable tragedies of the pandemic, it has afforded us opportunities to reimagine our energy world. For example, the European COVID-19 stimulus package could spur more than 1,000 climate-friendly projects, including those that support clean energy investment. The essential nature of utilities worldwide may help them ride out economic uncertainties and continue investing in clean energy infrastructure. In planning for a low carbon energy future, iDER strategies will allow these utilities to improve grid reliability while serving as an ally in the energy transition.