ORIGINAL REPORTING: The New Utility Planning Process That Gives Distributed Energy Respect
SMUD's holistic DER planning process could set new standard for utilities; Even solar advocates are praising the distributed resource planning done by Sacramento's municipal utility
Herman K. Trabish, June 16, 2017 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The clamor from the private sector for utilities to include DER in planning is growing louder.
California’s Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) estimated customers and third-party developers spend from $150 million to $200 million annually on distributed energy resources (DERs) in its territory, which is more than the utility was investing in utility-scale renewables to meet the state’s 50% renewables by 2030 mandate. As DERs have proliferated, SMUD, the sixth-largest municipal utility in the nation, has been testing new planning methods to maintain reliability and control costs, incorporating five steps laid out in a 2016 white paper from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and consultancy Black & Veatch. In a follow-up study, SEPA and B&V summarized what SMUD gained from integrated DER planning, which includes combined heat and power, distributed photovoltaic solar, energy efficiency, behind-the-meter energy storage and electric vehicles.
SMUD may be the first utility to have gone through such a comprehensive planning process, according to SEPA. Its analysis starts with a customer adoption forecast and then looks at how customers will use new technologies, and what their impacts on the grid and utility finances will be. It’s a planning procedure so comprehensive that even solar advocates are taking notice, arguing the process could provide lessons for utilities nationwide. The first step in the distribution system planning process was a comprehensive system assessment from the customer’s point of view. The second step was estimating the derived net load and impact of the DERs profile on the transmission and distribution systems. The third step was applying a similar analysis to the utility’s bulk power generation and transmission systems to get an understanding of what is coming at the distribution system. The fourth step was a comprehensive assessment of the utility’s financials, rates and regulatory responsibilities. And the fifth step was developing a DER strategy and putting that strategy into operation… click here for more