ORIGINAL REPORTING: Can new transmission tech boost capacity and save billions?
Can new transmission tech boost capacity and save billions? Two proposals aim to find out; Advocates are pushing a "shared savings" approach to incentivize deployment, but system operators have doubts.
Herman K. Trabish, Dec. 3, 2019 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The nation needs more transmission but, more importantly, it needs 21st century transmission.
New grid-enhancing technologies (GETs) have been shown to cost-effectively increase the power existing transmission lines can carry and the services they can provide without compromising reliability, advocates, including former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Jon Wellinghoff, said at a Nov. 5-6 FERC workshop on the technologies. But the technologies' supporters want to replace the incentives that have so far driven limited deployment.
"These new digital technologies can do for the transmission system what smart meters did at the distribution level," Wellinghoff, now CEO at GridPolicy Consulting, told Utility Dive. "But they aren't being deployed because transmission developers have no incentive to use them. New proposals would change that by giving developers a share of the savings GETs will deliver."
GETs' high-speed awareness of system conditions has increased system capacity, efficiency and reliability at relatively little cost or risk, advocates said during the workshop. But only wider deployment will address system operators' limited experience with them. That is why technology providers and transmission owners asked FERC commissioners to consider a little-used performance-based incentive called "shared savings."
System operators expressed almost unanimous concern that "shared savings" will add an extra layer of complexity to the deployment of new transmission, while also noting that reliability would be threatened by deployment of new optimization software. But they offered no fully conceived alternatives that will provide the potential benefits that advocates say GETs can deliver.
GETs' digital monitoring and control of the 7 million mile U.S. transmission-distribution system could save customers an estimated $2 billion per year, the WATT Coalition of advanced transmission technology advocates and vendors reported in March 2018. GETs can also add vital flexibility to a power system with rising penetrations of variable and distributed renewable resources.
Three types of GETs are key, advocates told the FERC workshop. One is Power Flow Control, which prevents outages and relieves congestion by rerouting energy away from overloaded lines. Dynamic Line Rating (DLR) incorporates monitoring devices that read, or rate, a line's actual capacity which is greater than system operators' assumptions 95% to 98% of the time…Topology Optimization software automatically reconfigures power flow around congestion and distributes power more evenly over the system to increase energy throughput. It can generate tens of millions of dollars in cost savings in annual congestion reductions, a 2018 Brattle-NewGrid study found… click here for more