Paul DeCotis, senior director in West Monroe Partners’ Energy and Utilities practice, was a guest on The POWER Podcast. West Monroe, in partnership with Greentech Media, conducted a survey of more than 1,700 utility customers, 140 utility executives and managers, and more than two dozen regulators in major markets across North America. Its findings were released in a report titled Planning for a Distributed Energy Future.
Interestingly, 92% of survey respondents said they had distributed energy resources (DERs) on their system, up from 80% when the survey was conducted three years ago. However, DeCotis noted during the podcast that DERs are not yet universally economical throughout the U.S.
“Not all states and regulatory jurisdictions handle DERs the same. It’ll be a few years before we see very significant DER penetrations uniformly across the country,” DeCotis said. “DERs still need substantial backup generation because utilities have the obligation to serve load and be the provider of last resort, so the industry will develop cautiously in some parts of the country until regulations become more certain and incentives become more mature,” he added.
The report notes that distributed energy resource management system (DERMS) technology is on many utilities’ radar, but more than half of respondents said they had no concrete plans to invest in it.
“As the system gets more distributed, [utilities] do need a way to have visibility and to manage that system so that they can be the provider of last resort,” DeCotis said. Therefore, DERMS technology will continue to become more and more important as DERs are added to the grid.
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POWER will host the Distributed Energy Conference Oct. 30–Nov. 1, 2019, at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center in Denver, Colorado. Visit distributedenergyconference.com for more information and to register for the event.
—Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)