Distributed Energy Resources (DER)
Aging electric utilities struggle to keep up with the rise in energy independence most consumers are clamoring for. With rooftop solar getting more affordable by the day, and things like electric vehicles being adopted rapidly, these old giants are starting to see the benefits, and not just the risks in the proliferation of distributed energy resources (DERs). Today, there are some energy companies who are learning to adapt and adopt policies and processes for embracing DERs.
“If we have a mechanism that allows for export and mechanizes and buys those experts, that might completely change thew ay behind-the-meter storage systems are sized and configured so we may even size it to grid needs, not just customer needs.”
- Jun Noh, Policy Director at the California Energy Storage Alliance
DERs have unique benefits to the global energy landscape that centralized power plants and long distance transmission/distribution alone can’t offer. When power can be generated when and where it is needed most, this decentralizing of energy production helps to create a dramatically more stable and resilient facility for delivering electricity. When DERs are integrated with the grid, electric utilities can better manage peak demand, and avoid overloads to keep the lights on for customers.
What Counts as a Distributed Energy Resource
DERs are energy-producing resources like solar panels, or it can refer to controllable energy loads, like your HVAC system or an electric water heater. DERs create more flexibility for utilities to reduce load or draw on other sources of production at peak times, helping to reduce strain on the existing grid. This reduced strain on the grid means less money allocated to maintenance and reduces the investment in peaker plants which have to remain on standby. This reduces the rate you pay for energy, and strengthens grid reliability.
Why DERs are Challenging Traditional Energy
Traditional utility companies are dealing with infrastructure that is decades old. In the United States, the average age of power plants being retired is 45-60 years. So, additional costs to maintain or retire ageing transmission and distribution lines, generators, towers and other key components are passed on to the consumer. In fact, it’s these intricacies that create problems with reliability that cause customers to think about finding their power elsewhere. Like on their rooftop.
Automated Energy Grids
Future capital investment is moving away from building new power plants towards incentivizing distributed generation and distributed storage. Decentralized power is on the rise, especially with Automated Energy Grids (AEGs) where energy for a dedicated area is pooled and distributed efficiently based on technology that helps optimize energy savings and reliability. AEGs also help reduce stress on the grid and give customers more control over the energy use.
One thing’s for sure—how the world has been generating energy is not keeping up with how the world is using energy. Distributed energy resources are going to be a big part of the future of energy.