2018 has been the year for making aggressive commitments to achieve a decarbonized energy future. From California passing SB 100 which mandated 100% decarbonized energy by 2045, to Xcel Energy’s decision to go 100% renewable by 2050, and dozens of other examples of municipalities adopting renewable standards 2018 will be seen as a turning point in power generation. To achieve these aggressive targets utilities are increasingly looking to augment the construction of their own renewable generation assets to a more distributed grid. Effectively integrating distributed energy resources (DERs) will require substantial planning and changes to how utilities and operators manage the grid today to ensure that power quality and cost are not impacted in a decarbonized future. One of the best examples of a utility innovation around DERs comes from Austin Energy and their SHINES program.

Austin Energy is the United States’ 8th largest public utility, serving more than 440,000 customers and more than one million residents. They have set some significant goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the penetration of renewable generation, while at the same time limiting rate increases to less than 2% a year. By 2027 Austin Energy will be looking to integrate 100 MW of customer solar into their grid. To achieve this Austin Energy is using software and data to create an innovative two-way grid utilizing customer and company infrastructure. This change is being driven by resident demand to improve energy generation options while ensuring superior reliability. The dual benefits of improving customer experience and meeting renewable generation is a model that many other utilities will be looking to follow.

Source: Austin Energy

To ensure grid reliability as 100 MW of power are integrated into the grid, Austin Energy is using software to track inputs like grid data, market data, and forecasts to optimize load management.  To make this economically viable Austin Energy, other utilities, and regulators looking to implement large-scale DER programs must ensure that the right customer pricing signals are implemented through effective time of use pricing. Furthermore, grid management software that can effectively combat peak loss avoidance and voltage support at the transmission and distribution levels are crucial.

The Austin SHINES project is funded by the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office under its Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV program, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Austin Energy. Zpryme will be discussing their approach to integrated DERs with Austin Energy in a webinar. The webinar will focus on the digital transformation enabling better DER management. Furthermore, it will explore the benefits and challenges related to grid modeling as DERs become more prevalent. Zpryme will be talking Russel Shaver, Austin SHINES engineering lead on the project, Sven-Hendrick Koch, Solutions Architect at Siemens, and Ton DeVries the Senior Director of Energy Infrastructure at Bentley Systems.