ORIGINAL REPORTING: How Smart Transmission Can Grow New Energy
Smart transmission: How FERC can spur modernization of the bulk power system; Transmission technology vendors say their products could save electricity consumers billions — if utilities were incentivized to invest.
Herman K. Trabish, March 26, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Efforts to bring smart technologies onto to the transmission system are ongoing.
America's 7 million miles of transmission and distribution system wires, often called the planet's biggest networked machine, have an estimated value as high as $2 trillion. But there are mounting worries it is not keeping up with the times. Pushed by public policy and favorable economics, U.S. utilities are adding more renewable energy and distributed resources to their systems, increasing the complexity of a system once run by far fewer centralized generators. At the same time, a number of states are stepping up efforts to electrify other sectors of the economy, potentially creating a huge source of controllable electric load for utilities through resources like electric vehicles. Upgraded data communication, analysis and control systems could allow the transmission system to save customers an estimated $2 billion per year, according to “Bringing the Grid to Life," from the Working for Advanced Transmission Technologies (WATT) Coalition, a group of advanced transmission vendors.
Separating consumers from those savings is what's known in regulatory circles as the "perverse incentive," the trade group argues. Utilities make higher revenues from building new lines — a lengthy and costly process — but much less from optimizing the existing system with new technologies. This, according to WATT and other advocates, limits utility investments and directs them away from the innovation their systems need to move to a power system with higher levels of renewable resources. The U.S. power system is listed as the number one greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century by the National Academy of Engineering. But this is the 21st century and there are “proven, advanced technologies” that add reliability and resilience, WATT argues. They allow system operators to identify and use “hidden transmission capacity” or to use lines more efficiently. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) can fix the perverse incentive, former Chairman James Hoecker told Utility Dive… click here for more