Distributed generation (“DG”) installations are growing exponentially. We expect the United States to hit one million cumulative residential solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in the next two years, making the 2016 market 10 times larger than the 2010 market. As the number of DG installations increases, though, complexities for utilities increase, as well.
How will utilities manage the growth of distributed generation installations in their territories? With decreasing technology costs coupled with the increase in regulatory/RPS requirements, utilities will not have much time to prepare for exponential growth. Technology is one way to prepare and manage the influx of interconnection/net metering requests that come with DG installations. Implementing a distributed generation management system (“DGMS”) is the first step in successfully managing and capturing the DG system information.
Valuable enrollment, asset management, and forecasting benefits
A DGMS can enable electronic enrollment, manage the distribution of DG asset data to all utility operation and planning systems, and provide utilities with the ability to forecast the impact of customers’ DG systems in real time.
The electronic submission has built-in smart features that include field-based error checking, auto-fill, and a completeness review. These features improve the accuracy of applications and reduce the number of incomplete/inaccurate applications submitted to the utility. Additionally, the DGMS tracks applications throughout the review process and sends notifications of application status to both the system owner and contractor. By communicating with the customer, the utility increases transparency related to the review process.
In addition to supporting electronic enrollment, the DGMS helps utilities manage DG asset data. Today, most DG system data is tracked in disparate systems spread across various utility functions. The DGMS provides a central repository for all data related to DG systems. It can also integrate with existing IT/OT systems to collect an accurate representation of the DG installations. By housing all the data in a central location, utilities can improve the accuracy of regulatory reports submitted to public utility commissions, generate regular reports for other departments, and maintain a comprehensive and current view of all distributed generation on the grid.
A third DGMS benefit is the ability to forecast the impact of DG systems in real time. DG system data in the DGMS coupled with weather data allows utilities to predict output at a given time. Tracking and anticipating renewable distributed generation, especially rooftop solar, is very helpful to utilities—whether for immediate (load balancing) or near-term (capacity) planning. Utilities will understand the impact of the DG systems on the grid at different times of the day and can use the information to guide procurement teams in adjusting power purchasing at different times.
As the distributed generation market continues to grow, utilities can realize these benefits of a DGMS system to manage all distributed generation assets.