Navigant Research Blog

The Growing Role of Energy Storage in Microgrids

— May 23, 2016

GeneratorEnergy storage systems (ESSs) have an important and diverse role in microgrids. Solar PV and other renewable distributed generation (DG) technologies require a voltage source in order to synchronize. This has typically been done with a backup generator; an ESS provides a similar voltage source but without the emissions of a diesel generator. Recent advances in microgrid automation systems, however, have made ESSs less of a necessity in partially renewable-based microgrids. According to industry leader ABB, microgrids with as much as 50% of load coming from renewable sources do not need an ESS. This is 10% higher than previously believed. Despite this, microgrids without some form of storage are not likely to become the norm, as ESSs provide a number of other advantages aside from being a voltage source. Peak shaving, smoothing power flow, and volt ampere reactive (VAR) support are just a few of the supplemental functions an ESS frequently serves. Islanding and black-start assistance further support the case for storage use in renewable DG microgrid systems.

The most recent update of Navigant Research’s Microgrid Deployment Tracker investigated the use of ESSs in microgrids across the globe. According to the report, of the greater than 15 GW of microgrid capacity accounted for in the Tracker worldwide, almost 25% utilized ESS in some form, up from a reported 17.5% of projects in the previous Tracker update in 4Q 2015. This is a result of ESSs being present in over 40% of new project capacity from the most recent update.

The chart below shows the percentage of ESS utilization by microgrid segment for both the 4Q 2015 and the 2Q 2016 Tracker. While ESS utilization grew across all categories, the commercial and industrial (C&I) and utility distribution segments saw the most significant increase, growing 40% and 23%, respectively. C&I microgrids have traditionally been led by diesel combined heat and power (CHP) systems in the past. The jump in energy storage use among microgrids in this segment likely signals a shift to solar PV and other renewable energy use that has a higher need for ESSs.

ESS Utilization by Microgrid Segment, World Markets: 4Q 2015 and 2Q 2016

Adam Wilson Blog

 (Source: Navigant Research)

This is further supported by the fact that solar PV capacity in microgrids grew by almost 840 MW since the last update of the Tracker, an increase more than 5 times greater than CHP capacity growth. The combination of solar PV and ESS is expected to grow in popularity across most segments and regions of the microgrid market. The declining price points of energy storage and solar PV technologies and an increasing focus on renewable sources are largely responsible for this shift. It has also been suggested that the combination of CHP, solar PV, and lithium ion energy storage represents the ideal mix of technologies for microgrids, particularly in the United States.

The high functionality of storage systems along with the growing presence of renewable generation in the microgrid market bode well for the future of ESS. These systems are expected to remain a core technology in the microgrid industry for the foreseeable future.

 

Why Even Have Meters?

— May 17, 2016

MeterFor as long as utilities have existed, they have created ways to have their customers pay for what they use.  The meter has traditionally been that tool, and many have looked to the newer iteration, the smart meter, as the nexus to enable the next evolution in the way utilities perform. Smart meters have been deployed for water utilities and gas utilities with recent fanfare. Most significantly, smart meters have been deployed by electric utilities, which are using advanced metering infrastructure as a pillar for new programs for a cleaner grid with more efficient use of power. The electric submeter is a part of that plan, enabling a finer grain look at who uses power with a tenant-by-tenant view. But is it time for us to rethink meters? Are they going to be a part of our digital future?  Certainly, we have to keep measuring use—having customers pay for the resources they use is critical, regardless of how low the cost. But with Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices, we need to rethink how resource use is reported, whether it be gas, water, or electricity.

A Clearer Picture Through IoT

IoT-enabled devices—think cable boxes, commercial HVAC units, large factory machines, and data centers–are already deployed in the marketplace. To date, most of the IoT buzz has been associated with control or information flow, like a building automation system controlling an HVAC unit or a cable company sending over the latest primetime drama. With little modification, IoT-enabled devices can share how much power, gas, or water they are using at the place and time of their use. If all new devices were shipped with this technology, it would be possible to have a clearer picture of how those resources are being used than by using the aggregation tool that is the meter.

Utilities would not want meters to go away. They are a key cornerstone of how they work, and, in some cases, are required by law. But as utilities strive to keep pace of the fourth industrial revolution, they may need to rethink how they want to provide better services for their customers. Approaches like circuit-level or plug-level energy reporting are not new, but if the entire electric, gas, or water system was reporting on how much it used in real time, it would provide a much clearer picture of the state of the system. This reporting could also shine a light into how much waste is present due to things like vampire loads or leaking pipes.

We’d need to have permissions and payment mechanisms resolved, and prototypes are already in development for microgrids. We’d need to have assurances that device reporting is reliable and secure, something that has already been proposed though the use of blockchain. The biggest obstacle is our existing infrastructure. At this point, it may not make economic sense to remove or even turn off meters and submeters, even as IoT devices are shipping. But there will be a time in the not-to-distant future where the meter will be viewed as redundant. It may be in a microgrid, or on a university campus.  There will be a tipping point where, for some new commercial, residential, or industrial facility, it will be cheaper to have no meters at all. On that day, we stop using the end of the buggy whip as the prototypical example of obsolesces, and we will instead recall the era of the meter.

 

Take Control of Your Future, Part II: The Power of Customer Choice and Changing Demands

— May 9, 2016

DataIn my last blog post, I discussed seven megatrends that are fundamentally changing how we produce and use power. In this blog, I discuss how customer choice and changing customer demands have become the leading drivers of industry transformation.

Move from “Big Power to Small Energy”

Customer choice is driving a large move from big power to small energy. More and more customers are choosing to install distributed energy resources (DER) on their premises. DER solutions include distributed generation, demand response, energy efficiency, distributed storage, microgrids, and electric vehicles. This year, DER deployments will reach 30 GW in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), central generation net capacity additions (new generation additions minus retirements) are estimated at 19.7 GW in 2016. This means that DER is already growing significantly faster than central generation. On a 5-year basis (2015-2019), DER in the United States is growing almost 3 times faster than central generation (168 GW vs. 57 GW). This trend varies by region because policy approaches, market dynamics, and structures vary. However, the overall move to small power will persist. In other words, the movement toward customer-centric solutions and DER will ultimately become commonplace worldwide.

Annual Installed DER Power Capacity Additions by DER Technology, United States: 2015-2024

Jan Blog Update(Source: Navigant analysis)

Customer Choice: Everything Is Changing

Customers want to self-generate and sell that power back to the grid. Customers also want new energy management products and services from their utility or other providers. The rise of the prosumer and active consumer movement is being fueled by three things:

  • A growing number of customers care about how and where their energy is generated and about the impacts of global warming.
  • Unprecedented and rapid technology advances are bringing greener energy choices directly to consumers.
  • New and disruptive entrants are rapidly emerging that give customers meaningful energy usage insights and options related to their homes, businesses, and transportation choices.

Where we see this movement picking up pace is in the increased number of commercial and industrial (C&I) customers that are choosing to implement their own more sustainable energy solutions. Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Google, Honda, Walmart, and other large energy users have increased their focus on installing onsite solar. Walmart has 142 MW of solar PV capacity at 348 installations in the United States, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA’s) Solar Means Business 2015: Top U.S. Corporate Solar Users report. The retail company has a 100% renewable energy target, together with 57 others currently as part of RE100. And then there is the “Power Forward” movement, where 215 Fortune 500 companies are pursuing their own investments in local greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, sustainability, or renewable energy initiatives. Power Forward 2.0 states that if incumbent utilities are not proactive (e.g., offer power purchases agreements, financing, rates, or project development), then they will be bypassed in favor of third-party energy providers (including non-regulated subsidiaries of incumbent utilities).

What Is New?

The focus on customer engagement and improving the customer experience is not new. In recent years, utilities have tried to improve the customer experience by introducing broader self-service, multi-channel options, and advanced information on energy products and usage. Such improvements include offering energy management applications like DTE’s Insight app.

What is new (and isn’t getting enough attention) are the actual implications of customer choice. With the increased availability of DER and new energy management technologies, the breadth and diversity of customer needs and interests that the utility will have to deal with are growing exponentially. Meeting diverse and changing customer demands is forcing utilities to rethink their role in the energy value chain. The range of possible services goes well beyond what they currently provide, including building energy management solutions, fast demand response, distributed generation, storage, microgrids, etc. Utilities must understand the full impact of all this on their customer service processes and systems. They must also understand how DER and advanced energy management solutions will affect their strategy, product innovation, business models, and the way they operate the grid. Taking an integrated and holistic approach is key.

Who Else Wants to Play?

Besides the incumbent utility, we see new entrants coming into the market that are focused on meeting the changing demands of large energy users. In the last 6 months, we have seen several announcements of new business models going after this market. Some examples are described below.

  • Edison International is launching a business that will help reduce energy costs, improve efficiency, and offer more environmentally friendly options for large energy users. The company’s new subsidiary, Edison Energy, aims to serve commercial buildings, data centers, retail centers, healthcare operations, and educational institutions nationwide.
  • Duke Energy’s Commercial portfolio president, Greg Wolf, has said, “In addition to utility-scale solar projects, we’ve also made investments in distributed generation and energy management systems for commercial and industrial companies.” Last year, Duke Renewables bought majority stakes in REC Solar (for commercial businesses) and Phoenix Energy (energy management systems and services for C&I customers).
  • GE Current combines GE’s products and services in energy efficiency, solar, storage, and onsite power with our digital and analytical capabilities to provide customers—hospitals, universities, retail stores, and cities—with more profitable energy solutions,” said Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE). Customers include Walgreens, Simon Property Group, Hilton Worldwide, JPMorgan Chase, Hospital Corporation of America, Intel, and Trane.

What Does All This Mean for the Incumbent Utility?

The incumbent utility (which includes the traditional competitive retailer not offering DER) has to adapt. Customers will look for better, greener, and cheaper alternatives, and more and more of these alternatives are becoming available. What’s more, the fight has started for the business of large C&I customers. If only a small percentage of large C&I customers switch over, the incumbent utilities will be in trouble. This will affect their revenue streams, roles, and the cost versus value of the centralized managed grid.

Facing declining revenue as customers consume less and produce more of their own power, utilities are faced with potential stranded generation (and eventually transmission and distribution) assets. This makes it even harder to make large investments (aimed at improving reliability and resilience) in their current grid while also making it more intelligent. And finally, they have to make investments in developing DER capabilities, offerings, and businesses. Given these challenges, utilities must play both defense and offense.

An updated defensive strategy will entail:

  • Engaging with customers to understand their customer choices and changing demands vis-a-vis price and reliability.
  • Engaging with regulators to find equitable ways to charge net metering customers for transmission and distribution services that fairly address the cost to serve.
  • Improving customer service and grid reliability at the lowest prices possible.
  • Developing utility-owned renewable assets to appeal to environmentally conscious customers.

Playing offense is even more important. Utilities must:

  • Create new revenue streams through the development of new business models, products, and services.
  • Transform their organizations and culture in order to fully integrate sales, customer service, and operations.
  • Upgrade the grid and operations to facilitate the integration of DER.

The above objectives can only be accomplished by implementing new business models that include developing, owning, and operating integrated DER such as community solar, customer-sited storage, microgrids, charging stations, building energy management systems, and home energy management systems. These goals also require utilities to provide third-party financing for DER and offer new products and services focused on energy efficiency and demand response.

There is no going back to the old ways of doing business. Utilities must lead—by playing both defense and offense—or they run the risk of being sidelined.

This is the second in a series of posts in which I will discuss each of the power industry megatrends and impacts (“so what?”) in more detail. My next blog will cover the rising number of carbon emissions reduction policies and regulations. Stay tuned.

Learn more about our clients, projects, solution offerings, and team at Navigant Energy Practice Overview.

 

Tracking Blackouts and Microgrids: Surprises in Both Categories

— May 3, 2016

Power Line Test EquipmentThe East Coast’s power outages have made headlines in recent years. Hurricanes and other bouts of severe weather have spurred on a series of state programs to promote greater resilience of the power grid, steering public dollars to new microgrids that serve communities and critical public purpose assets.

The list of states along the Eastern Seaboard now promoting microgrids keeps growing, with Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. being among the latest to join states such as New York, which just announced that it is now offering $8 million for 8 of the 83 projects originally proposed under its much-ballyhooed New York Prize program. No doubt, New Yorkers feel that they are the center of the universe when it comes to microgrids, but folks living on the West Coast may have a different perspective.

Tracking Blackouts

For example, I was surprised to learn that one of the leading vendors in the microgrid space—Eaton—actually tracks U.S. blackouts nationally, regionally, and by state. Eaton’s Blackout Tracker admits that it might be not complete, but it is the best data available on the duration of blackouts and numbers of customers affected. Similar to Navigant Research’s Microgrid Deployment Tracker, the data is global in scale.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in Eaton’s 2015 summary report is that California had led the nation in terms of power outages since the report was first published in 2008. Between that year and 2014, California experienced 525 power outages; New York was in second place with 399. For 2015, the tracker shows that overall power outages nationwide declined compared to 2014, but the number was still significant at 3,571. The number of customers affected by power outages in the United States also dipped slightly between 2014 and 2015, from 14.2 million to 13.2 million.

As noted in the Eaton report, extreme weather is lengthening the duration of power outages. According to estimates by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, outages are generally lasting 5%-10% longer over time. A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that power outages cost the U.S. economy as much as $188 billion annually. One could argue these dollars would be better spent investing in microgrids rather than being lost as a drag on the economy.

North America in the Lead

Navigant Research has estimated that the cumulative value of assets deployed within microgrids in North America could exceed $50 billion between 2015 and 2024. The next update of the Microgrid Deployment Tracker to be published in 2Q 2016 shows North America leading the world in terms of total identifiable microgrid capacity (42%) and in operational identifiable microgrid capacity (56%).

The biggest surprise in this biennial tally of global microgrid projects? The leading part of the world for energy storage deployed within microgrids is Antarctica of all places, where 100% of all systems feature energy storage. (Of course, this is an extremely small market in an extremely rugged environment.) The largest growth in terms of project entries among grid-tied microgrid segments is expected to come from utility distribution microgrids, which now represent 15% of all microgrid development activity globally. This is a clear sign that utilities are seeking to reinvent themselves in an era of climate change adaptation, increased reliance upon distributed renewables, and the emergence of new utility business models.

 

Blog Articles

Most Recent

By Date

Tags

Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Finance & Investing, Policy & Regulation, Renewable Energy, Smart Energy Practice, Smart Energy Program, Smart Transportation Program, Transportation Efficiencies, Utility Innovations

By Author


{"userID":"","pageName":"Microgrids","path":"\/tag\/microgrids","date":"5\/27\/2016"}