As solar continues to grow in the US, grid modernization is essential. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has released the first in a series of white papers detailing how the US power grid can be modernized to handle the influx of distributed energy resources (DERs), like solar. The initial paper in the series, New Opportunities for Solar Through Grid Modernization, evaluated policies and political landscapes in California and New York and how regulators are addressing infrastructure updates.
The white paper identified five common elements to addressing grid modernization in states. Such efforts include updating utility system planning, identifying alternatives to traditional utility investments, establishing strong cost benefit frameworks, modifying frameworks to drive investments in DERs and bringing new functionality to the grid through utility investments.
“Our goal is to help inform the conversation so distributed energy technologies can continue to flourish,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO. “Consumers deserve reliable, low-cost, clean power and this is easily achievable by tackling grid modernization correctly.” The organization plans to release related white papers quarterly. Each will discuss and compare how US states are dealing with net-metering and compensation framework and identifying how alternative utility investments can use new technology to increase the resiliency and functionality of the grid.
Residential solar installation is expected to slow during 2017. However, community solar projects and off-site commercial solar development will continue to grow. An estimated 200 megawatts of community solar and 800 megawatts of commercial solar are expected to come online by the end of 2017, according to SEIA and GTM Research, showing the need for more grid modernization as solar levels increase.
Traditionally, utilities have evaluated the electric grid’s functionality based on system-wide data. The white paper suggested a more localized and specific analysis of integration capacity and grid modernization with consideration of DERs will improve services and help utilities avoid unneeded expansion costs that they would pass on to customers.
Even in leading solar states the process of creating a modern grid is still in a “walking” phase according to More Than Smart’s Walk, Jog, Run Framework Toward Grid Modernization. The white paper points out that grid modernization efforts are already underway in California and New York, among others.
In California the grid is being modernized through actions like the 2013 passage of Assembly Bill 327. The law allows for a more comprehensive and transparent evaluation of location-specific data in relation to utilities’ distribution resource plans and the utilities’ ability to incorporate new solar generation into the grid.
New York is undertaking efforts modernization its electric grid through its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. Under that initiative the state required all investor-owned utilities to prepare distributed system implementation plans that proposed tools, processes and protocols for more cost-effective integration of renewable energy.Tweet