Utility Dive lists Top 10 transformative trends: What do you think?

Transformation could be the most overused word in the electric utility industry these days. Big data, energy storage, the internet of things and electric vehicles are just a few of the technologies we are being told will change the way we do business forever.

But what utility professionals see on the ground may be quite different, both from what we hear and from what other utilities are dealing with. The trends that are actually affecting your utility depend on what part of the country you serve, what your customer base looks like and whether you are an investor-owned or public power utility.

To get a sense of where the utility industry is headed, the online magazine Utility Dive You are leaving WAPA.gov. recently identified 10 trends that seem destined to shape our near future:

10. Coal power in decline – Since 2009, 25 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity has retired in the U.S., and another 25 GW of retirements are planned by 2022. However, the Environmental Protection Agency still expects coal to be a major fuel source for electricity generation through 2030.

9. Natural gas is growing fast – As market conditions and regulations push older coal generators into retirement, utilities are increasingly looking to gas plants to add reliable capacity quickly. Analysts still expect it to grow steadily over the coming decade and then switch to retirement between 2020 and 2030, a trend that could come sooner if natural gas prices rise from their historic lows.

8. Renewables reaching grid parity – Once dismissed as too expensive to be competitive, wind and solar—especially utility-scale—are reaching grid parity and often pricing out more traditional generation resources. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that wind could be the nation’s single greatest source of energy by 2050, comprising up to 35 percent of the fuel mix.

7. Utilities face growing load defection – With the rapid proliferation of rooftop solar, some customers are bypassing their local utility for their electricity needs, especially in a few markets such as Hawaii and California. Customers combining load management strategies with rooftop solar installations could purchase less power from their utility, and may even cut the cord altogether.

6. Utilities getting in on the solar game – A number of utilities are responding to load defection and consumer demand for clean energy by expanding into the solar industry, both in the utility-scale and rooftop markets. Community shared solar, which allows customers without suitable rooftops for solar to buy a few modules on a larger array, grew exponentially between 2014 and 2016.

5. Debates over rate design reforms and value of distributed energy resources (DERs) are heating up – Altering rate designs to properly value distributed resources is a trend that has largely grown out of retail net metering. This pays utility customers with solar the retail rate for the electricity they send back to the grid.

4. Utilities are modernizing the grid – Adding new utility-scale and distributed renewable capacity has increased the need for utilities to upgrade and modernize their transmission and distribution grids. Many of the regulatory initiatives underway to help determine the value of DERs also order their state’s utilities to prepare their distribution grids for increased penetrations of distributed resources.

3. Utilities buying into storage – Few technologies hold as much promise as energy storage for utilities looking to optimize their distribution grids and integrate more renewables. While the price for battery storage is still too high to make projects economical in regions with relatively inexpensive electricity, costs are coming down quickly.

2. Utilities becoming more customer-centric – Power companies used to think of their consumers simply as ratepayers, or even just “load,” but new home energy technologies and shifting customer expectations are pushing them to focus on individual consumers. Increasingly, utilities are seeing it in their best interests to market themselves to customers as “trusted energy advisors” of sorts.

1. Utility business models are changing – The common thread running through these trends is that they all are changing the way electric utilities have traditionally done business. Where utilities were once regulated monopolies, the growth of distributed resources is forcing them to rethink their business models. California and New York have captured most of the headlines for redefining the utilities’ role on the distribution grid, but other states have initiated their own dockets to transform business models.

It is likely that your utility has had to think about at least a few of these issues and may be grappling with more of them before long. Energy Services is here to help our customers manage these challenges and more. Contact your Energy Services representative to discuss how to turn transformation into your greatest opportunity.

Source: Utility Dive

IREC releases energy storage guide for policymakers

Webinar April 26
1:30-2:45 p.m. MT

A new tool published by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Charging Ahead: An Energy Storage Guide for State Policymakers You are leaving WAPA.gov. provides regulators and other decision makers with specific guidance on key issues for policy consideration, including foundational policies for advanced energy storage—a new generation of technologies characterized by flexible operating capabilities and diverse applications.

The characteristics that make energy storage so valuable and attractive also make it challenging to address in policy and regulatory contexts.

Despite its game-changing potential to transform the electricity system, energy storage is vastly underutilized in the U.S. electricity sector. Its deployment remains hampered by the current features of regional, state and federal regulatory frameworks, traditional utility planning and decision-making paradigms, electricity markets and aspects of the technology itself.

To date, state policymakers and electric system stakeholders have largely navigated energy storage issues without the benefit of a roadmap to inform key regulatory and policy pathways for widespread deployment.

Charging Ahead aims to address that gap by providing an in-depth discussion of the most urgent actions to take in order to enable viable energy storage markets that effectively empower states to take advantage of the full suite of advanced energy storage capabilities. The guide identifies four foundational policy actions states should consider taking:

  1. Clarify how energy storage systems are classified to enable shared ownership and operation functions in restructured markets
  2. Require proactive consideration of energy storage in utility planning effort
  3. Create mechanisms to capture the full value stream of storage services
  4. Ensure fair, streamlined and cost-effective grid access for energy storage system

In addition to these foundational policies, the report provides background on energy storage applications, analyzes regulatory actions states are currently taking, and also puts some context around the valuation of energy storage. Read more.

A free webinar You are leaving WAPA.gov. on April 26 will look at how the report can equip regulators and other stakeholders to integrate energy storage technologies onto the grid. Recommended state policy actions to address energy storage barriers will also be discussed.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 4/19/17

Blackouts looming, California speeds battery deployment after Aliso Canyon gas leak

A recent article in Utility Dive You are leaving WAPA.gov. explores the steps California is taking to mitigate the repercussions of the massive Aliso Canyon methane leak in the Los Angeles Basin last October.

Aliso Canyon is a repurposed oil field north of the San Fernando Valley that can store up to 86 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas to distribute to homes, businesses and power plants. It took owner Southern California Gas four months to plug the leak, leaving only 15 bcf of gas in the field, and now there is a moratorium on further drilling. The loss of the ability and capacity to store gas, as well as the stored gas itself, has created reliability concerns for both gas and electric customers.

Before the natural gas leak last fall, the Aliso Canyon Gas Fields in Southern California could store up to 86 billion cubic feet of gas. The loss of the facility threatens to affect reliability in the region.

Before the natural gas leak last fall, the Aliso Canyon Gas Fields in Southern California could store up to 86 billion cubic feet of gas. The loss of the facility threatens to affect reliability in the region. (Photo by California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services)

The California’s Public Utilities Commission You are leaving WAPA.gov. (PUC) issued a directive in May, freeing up utility funds that could be used to increase energy-efficiency programs. The state’s action plan includes asking electric customers to reduce consumption, expanding demand response programs and calling for revised tariffs to encourage gas shippers to more tightly match supply and demand, thus reducing the need for storage.

Bringing storage online
Fast-tracking plans to build energy storage may be the most intriguing measure state agencies are pursuing to prevent possible service interruptions. In May, the PUC began the process for an expedited procurement solicitation for energy storage that could be in service Dec. 31, 2016.

At the time, San Diego Gas and Electric was already far along on a request for offers to fill its 2016 Preferred Resource Local Capacity Requirement You are leaving WAPA.gov.. The PUC modified its original resolution, which did not mention SDG&E, to help the utility to find projects that could come online by the December deadline.

In the end, SDG&E selected a 30-megawatt (MW), 120-megawatt-hour (MWh) project in Escondido, and a 7.5-MW, 30-MWh project in El Cajon. The locations were chosen to alleviate electric reliability concerns associated with Aliso Canyon.

AES Energy Storage will build both utility-owned projects, and has a long-term service contract with SDG&E covering the first 10 years of operation, to begin before Jan. 31, 2017. The projects will bid into the California ISO market.

The article is long, but is well worth your time to read. If successful, the Aliso Canyon Energy Storage Project would demonstrate a number of aspects of energy storage that utilities elsewhere might apply in their own regions. The circumstances that made the projects possible are specific to California, but utilities should be aware that energy storage offers them another potential tool for delivering reliable service.

Source: Utility Dive, 8/11/16

New report looks at utility business models for energy storage

Navigant Research You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Sunverge Energy, Inc. You are leaving WAPA.gov. have teamed up to produce a white paper highlighting opportunities to embrace energy storage in ways that benefit both public utilities and their customers.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the technical potential of rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) in the United States represents the equivalent of 39 percent of current U.S. electricity sales. The capacity from solar panels, advanced batteries and other forms of distributed energy resources (DER) is likely to keep growing. Some in the industry see this trend as the beginning of the “utility death spiral.” There are optimists, however, who see the chance for utilities—especially publically owned utilities—to reinvent themselves and their customer relationships.

According to the report, Making Sense of New Public Power DER Business Models, advanced energy storage can optimize DER to provide value on either side of the meter. In three featured case studies, public utilities, including Sacramento Municipal Utility DistrictYou are leaving WAPA.gov. leveraged the diverse services energy storage can offer if coupled with state-of-the-art controls software. Smart storage applications proved to be the key to delivering win-win results such as improved reliability, more resilience and greater customer satisfaction.

Public power providers are uniquely positioned to explore new energy service delivery models that can turn the challenge of integrating DER into customer partnerships. You can learn more about innovative business models and up-and-coming technologies by downloading a free copy of Making Sense of New Public Power DER Business Models.

Source: Public Power Daily, 5/9/16

Home of Utility Energy Forum gets efficiency facelift

36th annual Utility Energy Forum
May 4-6, 2016
Tahoe City, California

Artwork by the Utility Energy Forum

Artwork by the Utility Energy Forum

The Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. (UEF) generates a lot of ideas about energy efficiency and management, and it seems to have rubbed off on Granlibakken TahoeYou are leaving WAPA.gov. the event’s most frequent host. When the premier networking event for utility program managers in western states meets May 4-6, it will be in Placer County, California’s showcase project for the Better Buildings Challenge.

“The Transformed Utility: Connecting for Success” is the theme for the 36th annual UEF. “So it’s fitting that the forum is taking place in a facility that has recently undergone an efficiency transformation,” observed Western Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman. “Energy efficiency is going to be a critical component in tackling the challenges utilities are facing.”

“We started focusing on transformation as a theme last year because so much is changing so fast in our industry,” acknowledge Mary Medeiros McEnroe, Silicon Valley Power You are leaving WAPA.gov. Public Benefit Program manager and UEF president. “We need to be looking at the future, to see where we need to go with customer service and technology.”

Placer County demonstrated that forward-looking spirit when it took the Better Buildings Challenge. The upgrade combined innovative financing, public-private partnerships and high-tech solutions to reduce Granlibakken’s energy consumption by up to 43 percent. “That is the kind of flexibility and creative thinking utilities will need to meet new mandates and shifting customer expectations,” said Horstman.

Agenda highlights big issues
Those topics and more appear throughout the UEF agenda and in the pre-forum workshop for utilities and government representatives only. Eligible attendees voted on the issues they will be discussing Wednesday morning prior to the UEF kickoff. Their leading concerns include how utilities can benefit from energy storage technology, measuring energy savings from water conservation and the new roles being thrust on utilities. “One of the reasons the UEF has grown so much over the past few years is the work the planning committee has done in reaching out to identify relevant topics,” noted McEnroe.”

The forum officially opens with a keynote address by Sue Kelly, president of the American Public Power Association, on possibilities for incorporating new technologies and services into their customer service options. The afternoon continues with the strategic policy panel discussion, co-chaired by Modesto Irrigation District You are leaving WAPA.gov. Energy Services Supervisor Bob Hondeville. “Co-chairing different panels is always interesting and educational for me,” said the UEF veteran. “It is rewarding to be able to have a dialogue with the speakers and introduce relevant topics to the discussion.”

The second morning of the UEF begins with a session on communicating thermostats. “Customers are asking for the thermostats and other smart tools, while utilities are still figuring out how to design effective programs with them,” said Medeiros McEnroe, who is chairing the session. “There is definitely a learning curve for both parties. I’m looking forward to hearing what Energy Star has to say about the technology.”

Vanessa Lara of Merced Irrigation District You are leaving WAPA.gov. is co-chairing the “customer’s view” session later that day. The panel includes Ron Parson of Granlibakken Management Company, who will be discussing their retrofitting experience.

Technology is the subject of afternoon sessions, exploring the latest in programs and tools to improve building design, retrofitting and energy audits. Attendees will also learn about demand response, supply- and demand-side management resources, as well as advances in electric vehicle and heating and cooling technologies. The final day features deeper explorations of specific systems and equipment.

Greening up networking
Much of Granlibakken’s energy savings are coming from replacing obsolete refrigerators, dishwashers and stove-hood exhaust systems with energy-efficient models. So the informal networking over great meals and snacks—where so many important connections are made—is now an energy saver, too. Consider that a good excuse to enjoy an extra dessert or appetizer.

Many partnerships, plans and programs have been hatched over the excellent meals in the Granlibakken dining room.

Many partnerships, plans and programs have been hatched over the excellent meals in the Granlibakken dining room. (Photo by Randy Martin)

Attendees will also enjoy sessions and events like the networking reception and the “Any Port in a Storm” port wine tasting in newly efficient comfort. Automated heating and air conditioning systems were installed to increase the efficiency of the facility’s natural gas boilers. You can leave your suits at home—the UEF is still a business casual function—but you may want to bring your swimwear and gym gear to make use of the resort’s fitness facilities.

The most important thing to bring to the Utility Energy Forum, however, is yourself: your ideas, your experience and your curiosity. “The UEF is unique in that it brings together people who are ready to build relationships and collaborate,” said Medeiros McEnroe. “I have come up with a number of partnerships with other utilities and service providers from past events.”

There is still time to register and, if you are a Western customer who is attending for the first time, to save some green. Western offers first-timers a small stipend to help offset the cost of the event. Contact Sandee Peebles, Audrey Colletti or Ron Horstman to learn more.

Let SEPA Fill You in on the Latest Developments in Energy Storage

Feb. 27, 2014
12 p.m. MST, 1 hour

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) is inviting utility customer and integration staff; policy; planning and solar and storage stakeholders to Solar, Storage and Demand ResponseRedirecting to a non-government site,Thursday, Feb. 27.  

This webinar examines how coupling energy storage with solar can potentially reduce both energy and demand charges. Participants will also learn how storage can align solar peak production with peak hours of demand on the grid. These issues will be explored with a firm grounding in how demand charges are calculated.

Following the presentation, participants will have the opportunity to post questions during a Q&A session. Take-aways will include:

  • The difference between power and energy
  • How demand charges are calculated
  • How the solar peak and system peak do not align, and how this can be addressed
  • How solar can help expand electric vehicle growth, as well as manage demand

Register today. The webinar is free to SEPA members and the media (subject to verification), and $199 for non-members

Learn more about energy storage resources from SEPA:

Upcoming deadlines