On July 1, California’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs) submitted the first iterations of their Distribution Resource Plans (DRPs), a new regulatory filing detailing how each will integrate distributed energy resources (DER) into their conventional planning process. Among a wealth of other information, these DRPs include a 10-year adoption forecast of different resource types, which will be used to analyze the range of potential impacts of DER on the electric grid. The California Public Utility Commission guidance provided a framework for three different DER growth scenarios, allowing each utility to use consistent underlying assumptions. The utility filings presented the forecasts with a variety of different metrics for different resources types, from annual energy impact to installed capacity to territory peak impact.
DER Coincident Peak Impact by Type, Trajectory Scenario: 2025
DER Growth Scenarios
These scenarios include a low Trajectory case, a moderate High Growth case, and an aggressive Policy Impact case. The Trajectory case portrays business-as-usual based on the existing economic and regulatory drivers. The High Growth case incorporates improved cost-effectiveness for many of the technologies and results in higher adoption. Finally, the Policy Impact scenario assumes California pursues aspirational greenhouse gas reduction, zero net energy, and electric vehicle goals.
The utilities were also required to allocate their system-level resource projections down to individual distribution circuits in order to consider potential location-specific effects from increased DER concentrations. In this iteration, the method and level of detail for this allocation varies both by IOU and resource type, as many categories were not actively tracked in the conventional distribution planning process. However, future filings will likely place additional emphasis on this difficult but impactful component.
Peak Impact Forecast Scenarios
(Source: Navigant Consulting)
Potential Grid Impacts
Each of these planning forecasts is used to determine potential impacts to the future distribution grid. The major categories are changes to the load growth forecast, consequences for grid operations and reliability, potential for capital investment deferral, and impacts to the planning process. While it is clear that these DRPs are the first step in an iterative process, it is also increasingly evident that these issues will have significant influence on the future of California’s electric power system. The variances and magnitudes of DER impacts estimated in the DRPs demonstrate the importance of incorporating location-specific DER adoption trends into California’s already complex load forecasting, procurement, and transmission planning processes. They also indicate the value of upcoming filings in the DRP proceeding that will seek to understand location-specific costs and benefits associated with DER.
Tags: California Utilities, Distributed Energy Resources, Distribution Resource Plans
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