Monday Study: New Energy Demands New Grid Controls
Reimagining The Grid
December 2020 (Southern California Edison)
Expectations about the safety, reliability, affordability and environmental impact of the electricity that powers our lives continue to evolve. As we see more evidence of the impact of climate change daily, communities and consumers are adopting technologies to support a clean energy future and placing increasing value on decarbonization and resilience.
Pathway 2045 is Southern California Edison’s (SCE) roadmap for enabling a clean energy future for California, laying out a path for the growth of carbon-free energy resources needed both on the generation (supply) and customer (demand) sides. Just as important as this blueprint to mitigate climate change is the need for an electric grid that enables the efficient integration of these clean resources while ensuring climate adaptation and broader resilience. Reimagining the Grid is SCE’s vision of this future grid.
Technology advancements in grid software/hardware and new resources like energy storage have fostered continued progress in strengthening and modernizing the electric grid. However, the underlying design and architecture of the grid have not evolved at the same pace as its component technologies. Fundamental changes in how the grid is planned, designed, built and operated are necessary to meet future challenges.
The value of the grid goes beyond the commodity cost of the energy it delivers. The grid powers all aspects of society, especially as our dependence on electricity grows. As electricity becomes the fueling system for a larger part of the economy, we must reimagine what the future grid should look like at all levels and how it will need to function differently to meet expanded needs.
We expect major changes in how customers will use electricity, which will place unprecedented demands on the grid.
Beyond an expected increase of 60% in electricity demand and 40% in peak load by 2045, electrification of mobility and mass adoption of distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar and batteries will make electricity demand more variable — yet increase customers’ expectations for reliability and resilience.
• More than 20 million light-duty electric vehicles (EVs) are expected by 2045 in California, with each new vehicle’s peak charging being roughly the equivalent of adding a new home to the grid
• For the first time since the electric grid was built, a significant amount of demand will come from devices that are not stationary, making load forecasting by location more difficult
• Connecting millions of inverter-based customer devices (e.g., solar, batteries) and electronics to the grid could cause widespread power quality impacts such as voltage distortions, which if left unmitigated, could shorten the life of customer and grid equipment alike
Power supply challenges will become more prevalent and complex to manage.
Due to their variable nature, greater reliance on wind and solar resources will require the grid to manage a growing set of issues.
• Transmission and distribution systems will need to handle an increasingly variable power supply profile, posing challenges to safety, grid stability, asset condition, reliability and resilience
• The growth of inverter-based resources (i.e., solar, wind, storage) to replace conventional generation will lead to loss of system inertia and other grid services that ensure system reliability today
• Since the bulk of future renewable resources will be located far from customers, the uncertainty and cost of building transmission lines may stretch the grid’s ability to deliver power to urban load centers
The grid will be exposed to growing climate change effects.
The direct impact of climate change on assets and customers will be a key driver for the evolution of the grid. Both the frequency and magnitude of climate-driven disruptions will continue to increase. Recent wildfires and heat waves in California are early proof of the acceleration of these climate challenges.
• Acute events (e.g., wildfires, flooding, mudslides, storms, wind gusts) and chronic stressors (e.g., extreme temperatures, heavier rainfall, drought, sea level rise) will impact operating performance and put grid equipment under increased stress and risk of deterioration or failure • Climate change will continue driving changes in customers’ behaviors, needs and ability to access electric service without interruption
Impacts on the grid will vary by location and depend on regional topography, urbanization and demographic trends, localized exposure to climate vulnerabilities and existing infrastructure. This highlights the need to take a more targeted approach to planning and designing a reimagined grid tailored to different needs.
Grid planning, design and operations will need to evolve.
Our approach needs to shift from a focus on systemwide reliability standards to one that meets multiple objectives based on specific and localized needs. Also, breaking silos with greater integration of generation, transmission, distribution and customer resources, and increased coordination with other stakeholders, will be required to optimize grid planning decisions. These changes will be necessary to avoid underutilized or stranded capabilities that end up being costly or perform poorly. Key changes for SCE include:
• Recognizing the increasing heterogeneity of different regions’ needs, moving from uniform grid architectures to more region-specific, “modular” grid designs
• Strengthening our “forward radar” — our ability to increase visibility and track early indicators of customer trends (e.g., EV adoption), bulk power system issues (e.g., loss of system inertia), climate model changes, resource availability and new grid technologies — to reduce future uncertainty
• Moving from a deterministic grid planning approach focused on single worst-case conditions to a riskbased, multiple scenario-driven, adaptive and more proactive approach using probabilistic analyses to plan for a set of plausible and more localized events
• Incorporating system flexibility into future grid architectures (e.g., controls to rapidly reconfigure or isolate parts of the grid), including the use of storage, DERs and controllable loads as grid resources
The grid’s technological capabilities will need to be reimagined.
Grid innovation will be driven by a needbased approach focused on identifying technology gaps to be filled to address future challenges, rather than by the traditional model of equipment suppliers developing standard solutions to address uniform needs. SCE will focus on advancing critical capabilities and will center its innovation activities around them:
• The ability of the grid to sense, communicate, analyze and act, providing a targeted real-time response to changes in load and equipment condition. This will call for advances in sensors, high-speed/volume communications, edge computing, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
• Achieving ultra-low latency (sub-millisecond) across thousands or millions of control points to maintain reliability and stability for a grid that connects to customer resources on a massive scale
• Integration of the above information/operational (IT/OT) technologies into a common, shared operating platform deployed across the system, with advanced cybersecurity as a critical enabler
• The ability to seamlessly package and deploy future technologies and hardware for location-specific needs, enabled by this systemwide IT/OT platform
And while we continue working toward further defining the capabilities and design architectures of the reimagined grid, we also need to take “no regrets” actions now to begin implementing this vision:
1. Improving our “forward radar” to anticipate changes, particularly regarding the timing, nature and magnitude of customer technology adoption and grid impacts
2. Accelerating the industry’s development, testing, piloting and deployment of critical grid technologies
3. Engaging with key stakeholders (state regulators, federal agencies, industry, customers) to build a shared point of view on upcoming grid challenges and collaborate to start shaping future standards
4. Integrating new tools and grid planning processes to lower deployment time, harmonize current grid efforts with future needs and make more adaptive decisions
SCE has been entrusted to provide safe, reliable, affordable, clean and resilient power to customers. With Pathway 2045 and now Reimagining the Grid, we are thinking ahead about how to continue serving our customers in a future of continuing transformation. However, we must start developing critical grid capabilities today to ensure they are in place when needed, and we cannot do this alone. Achieving a reimagined grid for a clean energy future calls for a collaborative, industry-wide approach to be most effective and less costly to implement. It will require all parties — policymakers, innovators, customers, utilities — working together to shape the policy and technology landscape and transform how we plan, design, build and operate the grid