ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Grid The Energy Transition Needs
2021 Outlook: The DER boom continues, driving a 'reimagining' of the distribution system; As new customer-owned resources grow, the old way of delivering them will evolve to make load more flexible.
Herman K. Trabish, Jan. 12, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Operating technologies like these will be critical to the energy transition.
Acceleration of the growth of distributed energy resources (DER) has power system analysts anticipating big changes on utility distribution systems in 2021 and throughout the 2020s. Continued falling prices of DER, ambitious new state and federal policies, and customer demand in 2021 will drive growth, power industry representatives said. And while utility-scale renewables growth will still boom, DER, including rooftop solar, batteries and electric vehicles (EVs), can be central to protecting reliability, according to a new Southern California Edison (SCE) paper describing the evolution of tomorrow's grid.
SCE’s Reimagining the Grid "is to help establish where and why we should turn right or turn left in building a distribution system to address evolving needs," said SCE Vice President of Asset Management, Strategy & Engineering Paul J. Grigaux. Those turns "will be determined by the growth of distributed resources and we want to have the system technologies to see and manage their impacts."
"We're reaching a threshold where distributed energy resources add up to enough megawatts to matter," Brattle Group Principal Ryan Hledik added. "And the idea of managing them in an aggregated coordinated way is being taken more seriously now."
There is likely to be much more attention in 2021 on proposals like SCE's for a future distribution system that can use DER to provide grid services, other power system analysts agreed. That attention is now needed because the DER are increasingly showing up and will accelerate in the coming year, the analysts said.
Concrete predictions about growth are difficult only because economies of scale are driving costs down and growth up faster than forecasts can be made, according to DER advocates. Prices continue to steadily fall, the December 2020 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory distributed solar data update confirmed. From approximately $12/watt in 2000, prices had fallen in 2019 to between $2.30/watt and $3.80/watt, depending on system size and market.
Residential solar 2020 installations were forecast by the 2020 Q4 SEIA-Wood Mackenzie U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, released Dec. 15, to have "13% growth in 2021." And that was before the recent extension of solar’s federal tax credit, which will help drive even greater growth into the early 2020s. The COVID-19 relief bill’s functional extension of the tax credit through 2025 and anticipated further clean energy support from the Biden administration and a Democrat-controlled congress are likely to accelerate distributed solar growth and cost declines, … click here for more