The recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) order 2222 to open the country’s wholesale energy markets to aggregations of distributed energy resources (DERs) like rooftop solar, batteries and electric vehicles, moves energy management technologies to the forefront of the rapidly transitioning electric economy.
As the electrification of houses, vehicles, manufacturing facilities, airports, and school campuses grows, businesses and consumers can use energy not just as a commodity but as an asset. This exciting shift in the energy landscape means that the grid, which was initially designed to manage one-way power flows from centralized power plants, is now having to manage two-way flows of energy, including renewable, intermittent sources like wind and solar.
Thanks in large part to the rise of smarter, cleaner technologies that offer new ways to generate and manage energy at the local and appliance level, these bi-directional power flows are resulting in a growing need for tools to navigate the grid’s electron highways and ensure that energy is being generated, delivered, and utilized in the most efficient, economical, and environmentally-friendly way possible.
The Waze of the grid
This is reminiscent of the pre-smart navigation days when drivers were challenged to navigate the roads and find the best possible route to their destinations considering the distance, infrastructure, construction, accidents, and more. Apps like Waze – the GPS navigation software app that provides turn-by-turn directions travel information, and route details submitted by users in real-time – capitalized on drivers with smartphones to create a bi-directional data network. Waze took roads that were once simple networks and evolved them into dynamic paths of information that enabled users to make better, more informed decisions about their routes.
Like Waze, new, groundbreaking energy management technology is solving the same navigation problem for energy produced and stored by DERs. This time, the data packets are electrons, and the highways are electricity grids. As utilities struggle with outdated infrastructure and energy issues become more complex, emerging technology provides a behind-the-meter solution with a real-time, bi-directional platform that efficiently integrates renewables and intelligently manages one electron at a time to sense and direct electrons to meet demand based on local economics and grid constraints – multiple times a second.
The benefits of Waze go beyond less congested driving routes or warning a driver of an upcoming speed trap. City planners and traffic managers now use Waze data to make informed strategic planning decisions about road infrastructure. In contrast, companies use Waze data to improve fleet operations, enhance applications, and gather better consumer information. Similarly, the advantages of real time energy management solutions extend beyond efficiency gains, cost savings, and revenue generation from electricity quickly aggregated and sourced in real-time.
Order 2222 and commercial buildings
Commercial buildings account for 40% of energy consumption in the U.S. — and 30% to 50% of that energy is routinely wasted. However, by analyzing energy data and utilizing energy management technology, companies and facility managers could easily spot and correct this colossal discrepancy. Not to mention, energy markets can avoid brown and blackouts, reduce spinning reserves, and plan based on actual supply, demand, and data – unlocking all of the associated benefits that follow.
With the adoption of local green energy generation, management and use via intelligent energy management platforms, consumers increase cost savings and revenue. At the same time, utilities avoid costly transmission and distribution infrastructure upgrades — saving hundreds of millions of dollars.
Without a doubt, the world is shifting to a new electric economy just as it moved to a new way of navigation. Governmental and regulatory mandates, such as FERC’s Order 2222, driven by consumer concern about rising fuel costs, the need to reduce carbon emissions, and improving grid resiliency, are forging a path for the evolution of electricity-based energy. A modern grid that mimics two-way, real-time smart navigation innovation is how we can efficiently, economically, and reliably enable this evolution. But we must incorporate dynamic, flexible technologies because we can’t navigate this decentralized and democratized grid without newer, smarter tools.
Jacqueline DeSouza is president of Apparent. Apparent’s energy management platform allows consumers to unlock new streams of data that spotlight how DERs are being used behind-the-meter and improve energy-related decision making – from grid operations to policy design. Additionally, this solution analyzes and improves output from each DER site to balance the load, optimize volt/VAR ratios and provide frequency regulation.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.
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