How to Determine the Right Mix of DER
Austin Energy is transitioning rapidly into a utility with significantly high levels of renewable resources. In 2015, only 20% of electricity supplied to customers came from renewable resources. By 2016, the number was 30%. As the utility approaches the tipping point of renewable resources being the majority — with its next major milestone of 65% renewable energy by 2027 — the transformation becomes profound. Local consumer adoption of renewables further increases the presence of distributed energy resources (DERs) and their impact on the distribution grid. As a large vertically integrated public utility in a deregulated wholesale energy-only market, the change requires addressing complex and interrelated challenges that are both economical and operational.
Recognizing that versions of the same dilemmas are playing out for utilities across the U.S. in many different markets, geographies and regulatory climates, Austin Energy sought funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) program to take an approach that could establish a model for other utilities. In 2016, it gained partial funding when it was granted US$4.3 million, the largest award to date under the Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar (SHINES) program. The objectives of the Austin SHINES project is to not only help Austin Energy to achieve its goals but also contribute to advancing utility knowledge for the industry at large.
The project goals are as follows:
Provide a template DER management platform demonstrating repeatable operational methodologies relevant to any region
Maximize the penetration of distributed solar, valued with a reliability factor, to meet consumer wants and needs
Enable distribution utilities to mitigate potential negative impacts of high penetration levels of photovoltaics (PV) and other renewable resources
Provide a system-wide levelized cost-of-energy (SLCOE) metric for evaluating the grid’s optimal mix of resources in any region or market structure.