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How Distributed Energy Resources are Impacting Utility Operations


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A new report indicates that distributed energy resources will have an increasingly complex and widespread impact on utility operations as penetration grows.  The report, Impacts of DER on Distribution Operations, is the result of a year-long collaborative research study by GridBright and CEATI International.

Distributed energy resources (DERs) are small-scale generation, storage, and demand response technologies.  They are typically installed by electric customers, on their own side of the meter, to both reduce their utility electric bill and increase reliability as a backup power supply.  Larger scale DERs can also be owned and operated by utilities or third-party service providers, and are often connected directly to the distribution network to provide both local grid power and a wide range of ancillary services.  

The penetration rates of DERs continue to grow in number and magnitude, impacting utilities in unprecedented ways.  The study assessed these impacts on distribution system operations to integrate these DERs within the network and control room.  "While most studies focus on cost-benefits of DERs, our clients are starting to see significant operational technology and business process challenges and opportunities," according to Terry Nielsen, Executive Vice President of GridBright.  "The full impact of DER on our industry has yet to be understood to mitigate negative effects and optimize their benefits."

GridBright led the work effort, with support from CEATI and a number of utilities across the US and Canada.  The study identified the major impacts on distribution operations when integrating DERs, and developed appropriate solutions for each.  The solutions range from simple technology upgrades, to more dramatic system architecture and work process changes to support a transforming value chain where customers increasingly produce and sell their own energy.  The final 140-page report also provides utilities with a maturity model, a gap assessment framework, and a roadmap to guide DER operations strategies.

"Our research results provide a comprehensive DER integration framework that each utility can apply to its unique situation to identify the steps they should take to get better at managing DER," said Alex Mogilevsky, the T&D Program Manager at CEATI. "We stand ready to collaborate with individual utilities who are interested in applying the framework."

GridBright and CEATI continue to collaborate on advancing research in this area.  They recently began another study looking at the transmission grid and market impacts of DER.

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