New rules for new grid technologies
An astonishing array of innovative energy technologies – distributed generation, energy storage, microgrids, rooftop solar, and smart grids – is transforming America’s electricity future.
These technologies, collectively known as distributed energy resources, could deliver significant environmental and reliability benefits to the electric grid while diversifying sources of generation. Given the promise of DER, state regulators and Members of Congress have cheered this ongoing energy revolution.
But hold the applause. Success ultimately depends on the grid’s ability to accommodate these technologies without endangering affordable electricity for all or threatening system reliability.
We must decide who pays for integrating these technologies into the grid. Remember, DER increases –not decreases – grid costs. More investment, not less, will be needed. Billions of dollars must be spent on the remote monitoring and control systems, meters, power inverters, and sensors needed to accommodate two-way power flows on distribution lines before extensive amounts of DER can be accommodated. Existing power plants must be retained and new plants built as standby for intermittent supplies of wind and solar energy.
Unfortunately, a hidden regulatory subsidy has bankrolled development of distributed energy resources. Net metering, for example, subsidizes rooftop solar by requiring a local utility to pay more for the excess electricity generated by the customer’s solar panels than the utility would pay in the marketplace.