As renewable energy continues its upward trend, utilities and government have to invest more into energy grid modernization. Read on to find out how they are making the industry more efficient and cost effective.
Grid modernization efforts currently underway in the U.S. offer a solution to enhance the distribution of power for users around the nation. However, many states are slow to adapt to the new regulations and laws, causing the technology available in the sector to outpace the infrastructure available.In Indiana, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and Environmental Defense Fund just finalized a settlement that calls for Duke Energy—the largest utility in the country—to invest $1.4 billion to improve its electric grid over the next seven years.
But in Illinois, proof of grid modernization’s success comes from ComEd’s $2.6 billion Smart Grid investment plan. The sweeping grid-strengthening and modernization effort has produced greater power reliability, energy savings, and other benefits to its 3.8 million customers in Chicago and Northern Illinois.
Washington state is also at the forefront of grid modernization efforts. Five utilities have won Clean Energy Fund grants to the tune of $12.6 million for projects focusing on renewable integration and creating a shared energy economy.
As the renewable energy sector continues to grow, the energy grid will need to adapt and expand to meet demand.
As the renewable energy sector continues to grow, the energy grid will need to adapt and expand to meet demand. At the same time, local, state, and the federal government, as well as utility companies, will need to continue to invest heavily.
Read on to learn how these organizations are modernizing energy grid infrastructure throughout the country.
- Smart Meters
New, technologically advanced smart meters can reduce operating costs while providing greater electrical reliability. Industry insiders claim it gives “exciting new opportunities” to lower their energy bills.
Smart meters also provide utilities with better tools to measure energy data and make faster decisions during higher or lower capacity times. This control during peak usage periods is a key strategy to better manage energy grids to make it as efficient as possible for its customers.
- Voltage Optimization
Historically, voltages have not been carefully controlled with end users often seeing voltages in excess of their actual requirements. That’s a form of waste that voltage optimization is designed to counter.
Carefully controlling voltages delivered is viewed as a solid way to reduce industry wastes and, as a result, lower the overall costs of production and reduce associated emissions.
Voltage optimization is “a proven, cost-effective technology that enables utilities to operate the electric grid more efficiently,” shared the Environmental Defense Fund.
It’s a small change in the long run, and some argue that it doesn’t produce the results needed to appease end users and government regulators. However, any step towards lessening energy waste, saving customers money, and modernizing the grid is a step in the right direction. It also proves a utility’s commitment to bigger and better upgrades in the future.
Microgrid implementation is not new but is increasingly viewed as a way to monitor and control electrical consumption for users within a limited geographical area. Microgrids utilize sophisticated systems that can continue to deliver power to the selected area even when the primary grid is not functional.
These systems can be used independently or in conjunction with the primary power grid. One of the biggest benefits to microgrids is their ability to take over during a system outage or, in some cases, deliver power to the primary grid during high-demand periods.
- Energy Storage
The need for energy storage becomes more apparent with the increased use of solar and wind power. Alternative energy sources contribute to the available power supply, but only as the current is generated.
To make use of the power during periods when the solar or wind sources are unavailable, storage facilities are an absolute requirement. As the percentage of power from those alternative sources increases, the availability and reliability of storage facilities is further accentuated.
According to the Global Energy Storage Forecast, the annual investment in energy storage systems will increase six-fold to $8.2 billion by 2024. This is a key strategy globally to ensuring a robust energy grid no matter the usage.
- Smart Grid Implementation
The shift to renewable energy sources coupled with the need to increase industry efficiency suggests the entire generation and distribution system must be fundamentally redesigned to really take advantage of the newest technologies. Smart grids are designed to take advantage of newer technologies while also enhancing the effectiveness of the existing infrastructure.
“Utilities will need to continue to evolve with changes in the industry to ensure participants can transact and customers can manage their choices on the grid,” Tracy Rozens of DailyEnergyInsider said.
Smart grids take voltage optimization, smart meters, microgrids, and energy storage into account as they seek the most effective ways to meet consumer demands.
Energy grid improvements must be ongoing to meet the future requirements of end users. No single strategy is likely to meet those needs, suggesting every step from power generation to end use must accept a responsibility for conserving and optimizing the use of electricity. The nation’s existing, and rapidly aging, grid must continue to improve if the country’s current and future needs are to be met effectively.
With solid cooperation between existing utilities and emerging solar and wind sources, energy grid improvements can, and should, resolve the nation’s power supply issues and ensure a steady, reliable power supply in the future.