ORIGINAL REPORTING: A Tool That Brings All Power System Resources Together
Want a more distributed and lower cost power system? Try this new planning tool; A new tool from Vibrant Clean Energy offers system modeling to match today's granularity and breaks the barrier between bulk system and distribution system planning.
Herman K. Trabish, Jan. 28, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The effort to use tools like this to integrated the bulk power system and the distribution system is the cutting edge of where the energy transition will be made possible.
While the costs of distributed energy resources (DER) continue their remarkable decline, potentially more important new data reveals their growing value to both customers and the bulk power system, experts say.
Planning by utilities and system operators has traditionally been based on complex forecasts about bulk system factors like resource cost and customer demand to balance supply and load. Local resources have been an afterthought. A new modeling tool claiming unprecedented processing power and detail offers the potential for a new level of joint transmission-distribution planning strategy not undertaken before.
"I don't know how this modeling tool fits into regulatory proceedings, but it's unreasonable for regulators whose duty is to protect customer interests to not investigate it," said former Maryland utility commissioner and Sunrun Chief Policy Officer Anne Hoskins. "If I were still a regulator, I would ask our energy staff to determine whether the commission should require its study or use."
Technical documentation of Vibrant Clean Energy's WIS:dom-P modeling tool shows it offers significantly more granularity about where and when distributed and other energy resources are available than other common planning tools. And more detailed planning can lead to better investments on behalf of customers, stakeholders agreed.
"If I ran a utility, I would definitely want to understand the added value of distributed energy resources because they will be an important part of the overall energy supply," Wells Fargo Renewable Energy & Environmental Finance head Philip Hopkins said. Knowing the value that DER offer the distribution system "will allow them to be used sooner and more efficiently."
But the new modeling tool faces two hurdles to overcoming doubts by traditionally-minded planners. The biggest is how to get utilities and their regulators to compare it with current modeling tools. It must also demonstrate real-world validity of the computations, as Vibrant sought to do with "Roadmap for the Lowest Cost Grid," released Dec. 1. The roadmap shows hypothetically how computing power and granularity — in assessing where utility-scale and distributed resources will be most cost-effective — can find hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for utilities and their customers… click here for more