• DER
  • Renewable Generation
  • Carbon Reduction
  • Bring Your Own Device

2018: The Year of Clean Energy Targets

Jessie Mehrhoff
Jan 08, 2019

Solar 3

December 2018 rounded out a year of more commitments by cities and states to shift their power generation from centralized fossil fuels toward clean, distributed energy. Closing out the year was an announcement from New York State Governor Cuomo stating that the state would transition to 100% zero-carbon energy by 2040. In the same week, Washington, DC lawmakers finalized a ruling to move the city to 100% renewable energy by 2032. These announcements join a rush of commitments and goals put forward in 2018 by states including Hawaii, California, New Jersey, and Washington. The 2018 class of clean energy commitments joins legacy cities and towns such as Aspen, Colorado and Greensburg, Kansas. The latter rebuilt itself as a renewable town after being decimated by tornados in 2007.

As renewable energy suppliers continued to enroll new customers in retail choice electricity markets, 2018 also brought a significant utility commitment to clean energy as well. Investor-owned Xcel Energy committed to providing 100% carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050.

With Distributed Generation Comes Distributed Controllable Loads

While commitments to zero carbon and clean energy do not necessarily mean that all planned energy sources are renewable, an uptick in variable wind and solar will accompany city and utility carbon-free plans. Accordingly, a pledge to clean energy often means a commitment to a variety of distributed energy resources (DER) to help control the load.

Increasing battery and pump storage will help to prevent excess solar and wind capacity from going to waste, but a variety of creative load control solutions will begin to populate the grid. Navigant Research’s recent report, Bring Your Own Device DSM Programs for Utilities and Retail Energy Suppliers, includes a range of solutions for controlling demand across the grid. EVs, while posing a potential drain on grid resources during peak demand, can be incentivized to charge in off-peak hours to absorb excess generation. Incentives for customers to install batteries can also help to ensure grid resiliency, and electric water heaters might serve as thermal batteries without disrupting customer comfort. Better yet, strategic planning can incentivize residential and commercial customers to opt into programs that allow utilities to discharge power from these sources back into the grid to help meet peak demand. One such program is already employed by Vermont utility Green Mountain Power.

2019: The Year of BYOD

In a recent blog, I explored how bring your own device (BYOD) offers seasonal solutions to issues of grid reliability. As daylight hours and wind patterns change across seasons, buildings, vehicles, and traditional batteries can all help to keep the lights on (and temperature comfortable). Utilities are already planning for an increase in DER coming online. In 2019, let’s ensure that distributed generation sources are welcome to come online and that we simultaneously embrace distributed load control technologies.

As more cities and states announce commitments to clean energy in 2019, we need to make transparent how a variety of DER will be used to achieve these goals; we need to give utility customers the full picture. Regulators and utilities should work together to increasingly incentivize mutually beneficial integration of DER into the grid. Not only will these programs boost utility customer satisfaction, but by ensuring customers understand DER as grid assets, we will move carbon-free energy commitments from being perceived as lofty goals to a feasible future.