Capacity and Energy in the Integrated Grid

Electric Power Research Institute

[From Abstract] It is commonly understood that electric energy is generated at power plants and delivered to consumers over a network of power lines. Less familiar are those capabilities required from wires, transformers, generators, and other power-system equipment to constantly meet consumers’ dynamic demand for electric energy. These capabilities are often collectively referred to as capacity. The system, as a whole, must have the capacity to generate and deliver the maximum energy required at every location within. This paper addresses the role of capacity and energy in the Integrated Grid…

[Utility Dive] …in a world where utility customers are increasingly generating their own energy, fine-tuning their moment-by-moment power consumption, and striving for “net-zero-energy” status, this disconnect between energy and capacity can become a serious roadblock to achieving a clean, efficient and reliable grid.

The utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute has spent the past few years highlighting these kinds of challenges in its “Integrated Grid” research initiative. On Monday, EPRI released its most recent report from the initiative, which delves into the data behind this energy-capacity divide, and lays out how technology advances and new regulatory and economic frameworks might help close it.

The report describes how “things that are happening over the last 10 years are making us energy-efficient and energy-abundant, but capacity-inefficient and capacity-scarce,” said Arshad Mansoor, EPRI senior vice president of research and development, in a recent interview. “We have to start thinking about capacity, which is a proxy for the generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure that’s needed to deliver that energy.”

This concept is critical to understanding why utilities are seeking to impose fixed charges or minimum monthly bills on their solar-equipped customers, and a point of contention for rooftop solar companies like SolarCity that are fighting back against these proposals.

It’s fundamental to the shift to time-of-use energy rates that match the cost of generating energy at times of peak demand to its price…


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