The next five years will be pivotal for the energy distribution industry. An immense shift is on the horizon—one that will affect how we produce, buy, sell, and distribute energy. At Power Analytics, we’re excited to be at the forefront of this important change, which is already taking place. As we embark on the new era of the smart grid, we’re sharing our top energy trends for 2015.
Trend 1: Advancements in Transactive Energy
GridWise Transactive Energy Framework defines transactive energy as “a set of economic and control mechanisms that allows the dynamic balance of supply and demand across the entire electrical infrastructure using value as a key operational parameter.” Essentially, it’s combining control techniques to improve grid reliability and efficiency.
What’s exciting for 2015 is that we’re finally moving beyond research papers, conferences, simulations, and surveys to real-world examples of transactive energy. As stated in the recent GTM report, Evolution of the Grid Edge: Pathways to Transformation, “Customers are no longer regarded as ratepayers who are due ‘minimum service requirements’ but rather as active participants and assets that contribute to the success of the entire ecosystem.” Today’s consumers are expecting to play a more hands-on role in the energy buying process—from determining what type of energy they buy to reducing energy usage during peak load times. The rise of the more proactive energy consumer will help drive advancements in transactive energy this year.
Trend 2: Increased Adoption of Microgrids
Microgrids play a critical role in the future of energy distribution. And we anticipate 2015 will see an increase in the buildout of them across the country. Here’s why:
- Government intervention: State and local governments are figuring out ways to incentivize–or in some cases pressurize–investment in mircogrids. New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) program, for example, has reforms in place to make major moves toward distributed energy in 2015. As part of the reforms, utility companies must deliver their plans for distributed system implementation by mid-December.
- Proven successes: Mircrogrid testing–like the Secure Automated Microgrid Energy System (SAMES) installed at Colorado State Integrid Lab–is breaking down barriers to implementation by demonstrating successes in reliability, efficiency, power quality, and more. At the lab, SAMES is testing software integration to show the actual control and optimization of resources, including the potential impact of renewable energy on the mircrogrid, the use of solar forecasting and storage for the photovoltaics, and real-time control of generation and loads.
- Cost-efficient storage: The growth of microgrid solar PV installations will grow the synergies between battery storage and solar PV, ultimately reducing high-demand charges. According to an article by Green Tech Media, “Thermal energy storage has proven to be an efficient tool to shift heating or cooling loads to periods of lower electricity prices.” As part of the SunShot Initiative, we’re working with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to help make solar energy a cost-competitive energy source by 2020.
- Reliability and security: Unfortunate natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012, brought to light the glaring need for more reliable energy distribution. And terrorism may pose an even graver threat to the bulk power grid. Growing concerns for energy reliability and security will continue to drive the conversation around microgrids and why they’re critical to the future of energy distribution.
Trend 3: Breakthroughs in Big Data and Analytics
One of the central themes that emerged at the DistribuTECH conference in San Diego, California earlier this year was data analytics—and we couldn’t agree more. In fact, the first two trends already mentioned here both hinge on one thing: big data.
The rise of smart meters, grid sensors, smart homes, smart phones, and the Internet of things has resulted in an enormous influx in data. The trouble is knowing exactly what to do with it.
Suddenly, like never before, we have ways to intercept and interact with data that wasn’t previously available. Thanks to intelligent software and strategic analytics partnerships, we believe 2015 is the year where the energy distribution industry will begin to figure out how to analyze that data: what to look for, what to extrapolate, and how to derive true value from it—all at the speed of the Internet.
So what does this mean for the big picture of energy distribution? The trends we’re seeing now—and will continue to see over the next few years—are the same sort of changes we’ve already witnessed in the hotel, airline, music, or movie industries. These are changes driven by advancements in technology that alter consumer behavior. Once the change takes holds for energy distribution, everyone wins.
Stay tuned for a blog post about what Power Analytics will be working on in 2015!