DERs and Grid Reliability
Distributed energy resources (DERs) can provide energy security, resilience and a way to reduce emissions. But it also means that more of the grid’s energy and capacity is spread across more sources. As local generation penetration grows, there is greater urgency in upgrading energy infrastructure to integrate these resources safely and efficiently.
Nearly all customers, including those who have installed private generation, rely upon the grid for fundamental services. Capacity (the obligation to provide energy and meet demand when needed) is an essential service provided to all customers who are connected to the grid. This includes times when private generation sources are not producing energy, such as when a cloudy day prevents private solar customers from producing sufficient energy to meet all of their needs, or when their system is not operational. Conversely, they also need the grid to take excess electricity when their system produces more energy than they need.
The grid also provides voltage control, frequency support and other services that are essential to reliability and all the devices we are connected to in our lives. Without these fundamental services, all customers would face challenges to operate and maintain the electrical equipment in their homes or businesses.
There have been bold predictions that the electric utility industry would be too slow to adapt to the changing energy landscape and become obsolete. While it is true that the future will likely require us to build fewer central generating stations, we will continue to rely upon 24/7 capacity as a cost-effective and reliable source to maintain the reliability of the grid.
We are making substantial investments to prepare the grid, most significantly in our transmission and distribution systems, to accommodate the multitude of resources that will need to connect to our system. The smart grid initiatives we began a decade ago are one example of how we have laid the foundation for a modern grid. Building new infrastructure is only part of the solution. Today, we are exploring new ways to partner with our customers to manage available resource capacity in ways that are mutually beneficial.