ORIGINAL REPORTING: As utilities embrace DERs, pilot projects emerge as key
As utilities embrace DERs, pilot projects emerge as key element of compromise; Utility DER pilots are helping build familiarity with new technologies and resolve sector disputes over distributed energy policies.
Herman K. Trabish, May 4, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The use of pilot programs by utilities continues to expand but some New Energy advocates are worried about moving the experiments into wider practice.
Nearly 85% of respondents to Utility Dive’s 2017 State of the Electric Utility Survey indicated they expect distributed generation to grow moderately or significantly in their power mix over the next 10 years and 90% said they believe their utility should have a business model to embrace the DER shift. But the survey also showed utilities are more likely to be invested in pilot programs for emerging DERs like rooftop solar and storage than to have them currently integrated into their core operations. Utilities have always utilized pilots for emerging technologies, but when it comes to DERs, a new use for them may be emerging. As utilities and DER vendors debate changes to net metering policies, rate design and other regulatory issues, utility pilot programs are often a key element of compromise.
The Q1 2017 Solar Policy Update confirmed the trend toward pilots as a basis for compromise. Whether they will entice utilities to integrate DERs into their core operations remains to be seen — as does the impact on vendors in the space. Expectations of DER growth are highest in regions where regulatory compromises allowed pilot projects to play a key role in spurring initial deployment and market designs that allowed DER growth. Utility professionals in New England states were the most confident in rooftop solar growth, for instance, with 58% expecting significant growth. The pilot trend extends to other resources as well. More than 80% of respondents from the West Coast, Great Plains, New England and Rocky Mountain states expect moderate or significant growth in demand response and demand-side management… click here for more