40. Distributed Generation + Intelligent Grid (DG+IG) Initiative
The United States electrical system relies on old, centralized, fossil-fuel-burning and nuclear power stations paired with inefficient, long-distance transmission over an antiquated grid. Large-scale power outages due to the vulnerability of the power grid are all too common in the United States. A study by the Galvin Electricity Initiative found that blackouts cost Americans an estimated $150 billion in economic losses annually. In addition to disrupting our economy, grid failures also jeopardize public safety by impairing critical services such as water transport, sewage treatment, and heating and cooling.
Rather than continue to invest billions of dollars in this brittle system, policymakers should embrace a more reliable, decentralized electrical system. Distributed generation of clean energy integrated with intelligent grid solutions like demand response, advanced inverters, and energy storage technology will result in a far more efficient and resilient electrical system.
The country needs to move towards an intelligent, efficient, and sustainable electrical system. The Clean Coalition has a road map for getting there, and it is called the Distributed Generation + Intelligent Grid (DG+IG) Initiative.
▪ Distributed generation (DG) refers to generating clean energy close to where it is consumed, rather than forcing communities to rely on faraway fossil fuel and nuclear power plants and inefficient long-distance power transmission.
▪ An intelligent grid (IG) can integrate and balance high levels of distributed generation on a local grid, while maintaining or improving grid reliability.
This DG + IG combination, deployed across America, would make our energy system cleaner, more reliable, and more secure. It would save ratepayers money, create domestic jobs, and cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The DG+IG combination would make our nation more energy independent, and help the U.S. take the lead in the fast-growing clean energy economy.
The key components of the Clean Coalition’s vision for modernizing America’s electrical system include:
▪ Demand response — An intelligent grid is able to adjust demand to balance variations in supply. This addresses intermittency issues associated with some forms of renewable energy.
▪ Energy storage — Developing and deploying innovative energy storage solutions will smooth intermittency and load management issues associated with some forms of renewable energy generation and age-old challenge of fluctuating loads.
▪ Electric vehicles — An intelligent grid will incorporate the charging needs and storage capacities of electric vehicles, which represent a combination of load and demand response; and are key bridging the transportation segment into the clean energy future.
▪ Monitoring, communications, and control — Utilities have a strong understanding of what is happening on long-distance transmission grids, but they are mostly oblivious when it comes to real-time intelligence on local distribution grids. All the pieces of our energy system, from generation to delivery, must be able to communicate with each other. This will boost the energy system’s efficiency, reliability, and resilience.
▪ Common Standards — Consistent standards for devices, operations, and communications related to the grid will ensure that improvements and additions to our energy system will be compatible, and can interoperate with each other.
Through the DG+IG Initiative, the Clean Coalition is working with forward-thinking utilities to develop five DG+IG demonstration projects. Each demonstration project will prove that local renewables connected to the distribution grid can provide at least 25% of the total electric energy consumed within the distribution grid, while maintaining or improving grid reliability. These demonstration projects will highlight the technical and financial feasibility of high penetrations of DG and serve as models for modernizing America’s electrical system in the most intelligent manner possible.
Why it should be recognized:
The recent large-scale blackout caused by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast and the failure of the still shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in California are timely demonstrations of the need to improve our electrical system by implementing distributed generation and intelligent grid solutions.
Through the DG+IG Initiative, the Clean Coalition is already working with forward-thinking utilities to launch five demonstration projects across the country. By the end of 2014, the demonstrations will prove that local distribution grids are able to get at least 25% of their electricity needs from local renewables, while maintaining or improving grid reliability.
Moving to a DG+IG grid is more than just a matter of reliability and energy efficiency. Jim Woolsey, former Director of the CIA, asserts that the vulnerability of our power grid poses a major national security risk. Terrorist attacks at a few isolated physical points in the grid could compromise the nation’s energy systems. DG+IG deployments significantly increase grid security by localizing energy generation and balancing. Ultimately, the Clean Coalition’s DG+IG projects provide the foundation for establishing resilient microgrids that can ‘island’ to provide essential services, even during long-term emergencies.
The DG+IG Initiative is a major step toward a smarter, more efficient, and more reliable energy system that will place the United States at the forefront of the emergent clean energy economy.