Microgrids Open Doors to Future DER Opportunities

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A new white paper from PXiSE Energy Solutions explores how microgrids can help utilities leverage diverse distributed energy resources (DER) to better serve their customers and reposition themselves in the energy supply value chain.

Distributed Energy Resource

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Microgrids have been around since the days of Thomas Edison, and, according to the white paper, many of the earliest microgrids were deployed by utilities. The authors say that “though the industry switched to a ‘bigger is better’ mentality aligned with tightly regulated monopolies, we are now heading back to the future.” With technological advances in controls and digital communications, the industry is now better able to integrate more diverse DER options. “Microgrids help utilities organize DER assets systematically, unlocking new value such as increasing renewables’ hosting capacity, providing resilience to critical facilities and communities, and providing grid network benefits.”

As more utilities are integrating DER assets, they must decide between a behind-the-meter or front-of-the-meter (FTM) microgrid. The paper explains the differences, noting that a FTM microgrid design is rare, but it’s also “a configuration that only a utility can deploy.”

The white paper presents two case studies to “illustrate how sophisticated digital control platforms allow microgrids to address the need for utilities to manage increased generation and load complexity on distribution and transmission systems.” The authors examine both Portland General Electric, a behind-the-meter example, and San Diego Gas & Electric, a front-of-the-meter example. Both case studies work to highlight how each utility’s new business model not only places it in a leadership position in the microgrid market but also provides a number of benefits for customers and the utility.

“In 2021, the amount of DER capacity coming online globally will exceed the amount of capacity coming online from large centralized power plants. Over time, the gap between these two sources of energy services grows, and in favor of DER assets spanning generation, load, energy storage and EVs.” — PXiSE Energy Solutions, “How Utilities Can Be Microgrid Leaders”

The authors assert that “utilities need to reinvent themselves with microgrids serving as the foundation for the future grid. They will need resilient and sustainable energy systems designed to accommodate the rapid growth in DER while creating new revenue streams under new business models that allow utilities to remain integral to the energy market transformations underway.” To help accomplish this transition, they outline five steps for utilities to prepare for the energy cloud future. Key among these next steps is to consider a microgrid as the first step in achieving grid modernization with distributed energy resources management systems.

Download the full report from PXiSE Energy Solutions, “How Utilities Can Be Microgrid Leaders,” to learn more about how your utility can leverage DER to transform your business.

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