Do Efficiency, Storage, Microgrids Fit as “Non-Transmission Alternatives?”

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Efficiency, storage, microgrids, and distributed generation complement, but rarely can replace traditional transmission, says a new study from WIRES conducted by London Economics International.

The study was conducted in response to FERC’s requirement in Order No. 1000 that planners take account of “non-transmission alternatives.”
Efficiency, storage, microgrids and distributed generation are labeled “market resource alternatives,” in the report, which examines how these options can benefit the electric system and consumers.

Market resource alternatives need to be put on equal footing with conventional sources, said Julia Frayer, managing director of LEI and author of the report.

“But how do we do this objectively, without any biases?” she said.
“It’s really about how do we make sure we’re studying things comprehensively during transmission planning — reflecting the interplay between new technology and conventional technology,” she said.
In the study, LEI put the resources side-by-side, and addressed the benefits of each resource. “In order to look at this objectively, we need to look across the entire spectrum of services that different technologies provide,” Frayer explained. “Some may provide energy and some may provide power at peak.”

For example, the report found that energy storage can take in energy not consumed in one period and release it during another period. “But it can not produce that energy,” she said. “It is providing energy during discreet time intervals, but not on a continuous basis, like a combined- cycle gas turbine.”

As for microgrids, “microgrids have a localized impact on reliability and play a major role in grid resilience, especially for critical facilities like hospitals under duress, for specific loads,” said James Hoecker, an attorney with Husch Blackwell, advisor and counsel to WIRES. “A question that could be raised is whether they constitute a broader off-grid solution that can work hand in glove with transmission to supply benefits to the larger bulk power market.” He added that he doubted this is possible, but thought it should be investigated further.

“We concluded that in the technology we see to date, there may be times when certain market resource alternatives can not substitute for other options for transmission but may complement each other,” said Frayer.
“The suggestion is to do both—pursue transmission investment because you need it, event though market resource alternatives can delay the need for the investments,” Frayer said.

The report can be found here

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