MPrest CEO Andy Bennett joined pv magazine to talk about the future of DERs and the role that distributed energy resource management systems are likely to play.
The Build Back Better bill is getting closer to a vote in the House of Representatives, and with it, a potential $ 3 billion is allocated for smart grid research and upgrades.
Future energy resources will be characterized by both a mix of larger, large-scale production centers and an increasing share of smaller and more flexible Distributed Energy Resources (DERs).
This was the view shared by mPrest CEO Andy Bennett, who joined pv magazine to talk about the future of DERs and the role of Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS).
Bennett’s company started out as a defense systems manager, developing algorithms for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense program, a very complex and dynamic anti-aircraft system. mPrest then turned to energy, bringing its experience of managing real-time and very complex security systems into its basic construction of a DERMS service offering.
DERs that are located near load centers, such as rooftop solar power, are better able to respond to extreme weather events, national security events, or other unforeseen circumstances than centralized resources. They also present a set of benefits for the grid, capable of providing services such as the provision of back-up power in the event of an outage, the provision of electricity in times of high demand and, increasingly, the sale of electricity on wholesale markets.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order 2222 marked a milestone for DERs. It allows the aggregation of distributed resources for participation in wholesale energy markets. The expected benefits include lower costs for consumers through increased competition, greater flexibility and resilience of the grid, and more innovation in the electric power sector.
Bennett said the FERC order would lead to a proliferation of entries from unregulated aggregators and virtual power plants (VPPs), leading to competition and complexity in the market. He said this wider market participation is good for the network and for consumers, and opens the door for DERMS to derive more value from these flexible resources.
Bennett said the economic stimulus package adopted under the Obama administration has led to a source of advancement in innovation in grid control, and a flood of intellectual capacity has been drawn into the energy space. He said the stimulus may have placed too much emphasis on the development and distribution of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). He said this time around, it might be better for the policy to consider wireless alternatives, like those seen connected and managed by DERMS. Bill Biden is much bigger than the Obama-era stimulus package, and Bennett has said he plans even more innovations if passed.
Bennett said the United States simply cannot repair and replace the grid as it was, and distribution will be the most cost-effective way to go.
“Electric vehicles alone increase a home’s energy load by almost 50%,” Bennett said. “This poses a new set of challenges for transformers who already need to be replaced.” Combined with increasing electrification and greater reliance on distributed renewables, it is becoming clear that the old way of building the grid does not fully match the new needs, he said.
DERs include solar PV, inverters, heating and cooling systems, energy storage, electric vehicles and their chargers, etc.
Bennett said that while DERs may be more resilient and reliable, they must be managed properly to maintain that status. He said DERMS reduces the risks of distributed solar power, electric vehicles and other connected DERs, and makes them better able to predict and respond to disruptive events, like an overloaded transformer that fails, for example. .
Bennett said it was time to adopt better management tools before these problems arose. “We don’t want a backlash on what we know to be a fundamentally good thing in distributed energy resources, something that better protects the environment and saves people money. “
Learn more about the future of the grid and the role of solar PV in a recap from our recent annual Roundtables USA 2021 live event.
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