ORIGINAL REPORTING: Transition To Renewables Up Push For Reliability
As Biden targets 100% clean electricity, strategies emerge to reliably integrate rising renewables; System controls, flexibility through DER, and new policies supporting market economics are coming
Herman K. Trabish, April 19, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Power system operators everywhere continue to work toward greater reliability are resources and load become more dynamic.
In the transitioning power system, barriers are falling between renewables and traditional fossil and nuclear generation and between types of variable generation like wind and solar. The energy infrastructure proposals from the Biden administration, if approved by Congress, are likely to accelerate that.
In response to the rising penetrations of variable utility-scale wind and solar, as detailed by a December 2020 data compilation from Department of Energy (DOE) researchers, and reliance on less cost-competitive natural gas fades, new solutions already in the works will assure reliability, power system analysts said.
Combined, utility-scale wind and utility-scale solar were "58% of all new U.S. generation capacity over the past six years," said Research Scientist Mark Bolinger of DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). LBNL's presentation of where the two resources have reached or can reach higher penetrations shows regulators and utilities how to plan "more-realistic portfolios" for their regions to meet Biden administration goals, Bolinger said.
The LBNL data reflects a transition "to an era where we need to assemble portfolios of resources into tradable energy products" that can be dispatched as predictably as traditional generation, Energy Innovation Senior Fellow Eric Gimon said. "There may not be one perfect way to bring this portfolio concept into markets, but we need to learn how to do it" to make clean energy viable and reliable in the energy marketplace.
Regulators, system operators, utilities and the private sector are starting to develop ways to reliably integrate the rising penetrations of variable renewables with flexible distributed energy resources (DER) to increase reliability, Bolinger and Gimon agreed. But the smart 21st century transmission and distribution (T&D) system and policy strategies the new power system will need to optimize this resource transformation are still in the works, stakeholders said.
There is a growing recognition of the falling costs of renewables and storage shown in the LBNL data that favor the transition to a new power system. The Biden administration’s focus on climate is likely to drive even more clean power integration because renewables are winning the market, according to a July 2020 report from the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).
"President Biden has talked about transformation in a way we have not heard from presidents before," ACORE President and CEO Gregory Wetstone said. For that, "power system infrastructure must change because renewables and emissions-reduction mandates are increasing, renewables and storage technologies are becoming more cost-competitive, and business and residential customer demand are accelerating that need." The cost-competitiveness of utility-scale solar-plus-storage projects shown in LBNL's data was confirmed by a November 2020 BlooombergNEF report. Solar-plus-storage projects are now "a viable, dispatchable clean energy resource for utilities," BloombergNEF said… click here for more