ORIGINAL REPORTING: Tomorrow’s Power System
Edison Reimagines California’s Distribution System
Herman K. Trabish, January 5, 2021 (California Current)
Editor’s note: The demands on the power system have become more clear since this story ran, making the need for future technologies more urgent.
Distributed energy’s explosive growth makes integrating it in a way that supports the power system critical, according to a new white paper from Southern California Edison. The paper forecasts significant growth of distributed energy resources (DER) in California and “we want to have the system technologies to see and manage their impacts,” SCE VP of Asset Management, Strategy & Engineering Paul Grigaux said. SCE’s Reimagining the Grid aims to guide “where and why we should turn right or turn left in building a distribution system to address evolving needs,” he added.
The new white paper is the next phase of a debate that started with SCE’s 2018 rate case and is leading to alignment between utilities and DER advocates, Grigaux said. Agreement is increasing between California regulators and other stakeholders about a quickly evolving future.
SCE’s grid evolution proposal is at the “cutting edge” of distribution system planning, Vote Solar Senior Director for Grid Integration Ed Smeloff said. Both its vision and call for collaboration with other stakeholders are important, he added. Greater reliance on variable wind and solar resources and the growth of DER will require managing “challenges to safety, grid stability, asset condition, reliability and resilience.”
That is according to SCE’s newest addition to its Pathway 2045 vision of how to meet California’s net zero emissions mandate set for 2045.
The design and architecture of the grid have not evolved at the same pace as its component technologies. Therefore, fundamental changes are needed in how the grid is planned, designed, built and operated, according to SCE’s paper. There will be a 60% growth in electricity demand, a 40% growth in peak load, over 20 million light-duty electric vehicles, and “mass adoption of DER like solar and batteries” by 2045, it added. While electricity demand becomes more variable customers’ expectations for reliability and resilience increase.
One of the challenges that concerns SCE is that inverter-based customer-owned technologies, such as distributed solar and batteries, can impact system voltage and frequency and threaten system stability, Grigaux said. To address it, the utility needs visibility into “how the grid is operating at any node in the system to be able to respond to disturbances or outages.” The “reimagined” system will also require “more region-specific, ‘modular’ grid designs” and better “forward radar” to foresee customer adoption of technologies and the system issues they present, the paper said. Planning must take a “multiple scenario-driven, adaptive and more proactive approach using probabilistic analyses” to create system flexibility to address future uncertainty… click here for more