ORIGINAL REPORTING: The high cost to utilities of not planning for distributed solar
As distributed solar expands, can utility system planning keep up? Distributed solar forecasting costs vary, but "completely neglecting it can be very expensive."
Herman K. Trabish, June 14, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: More regulatory effort is now going into preparing utility systems for the inevitable high penetrations of distributed energy resources.
With the rise of distributed energy resources, distribution system planning is getting harder for utilities, but the cost of not doing it is also growing. No more than a decade ago, planning was a matter of historical loads, load growth forecasts, and proposals to build new central station generation when it was needed. Now, system planners face an emerging dynamic environment in which traditional generation is becoming less cost-competitive and integrating variable utility-scale renewables into the grid can be challenging. Complicating matters, more uncertainty is coming over the next 10-year to 20-year planning horizon. Portfolios of renewables and distributed energy resources (DER) are expected to become the most cost-effective supply option. DER will be owned by customers or controlled by private providers and challenging to forecast or plan around.
These rapidly shifting dynamics have introduced an unprecedented level of uncertainty into planning. Some utilities face "continuous refinement" in the forecasting methods they use for distributed resources adoption, according to new National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)-led research. It can be critical for a utility to get forecasting right if it has a big load or if it has, or expects, a high DER penetration. Underforecasting DER can lead the utility to make unneeded capital expenditures in utility-scale generation. Overforecasting can force the utility to fill generation shortfalls with energy purchases at power market prices. Fortunately, sophisticated new forecasting tools are emerging to give utilities more insight into customer adoption practices… click here for more