Beyond the complexity of interconnecting DER systems, utilities will need to monitor these systems throughout their lifespan. West Monroe, the U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC), and State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly), are working to develop the tools to effectively manage these systems to enable utilities to support greater penetrations of DER on their networks without sacrificing power quality and reliability.

By: Sean Murphy and Tom Hulsebosch

Many utilities are currently faced with the challenge of supporting Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) applications and deployments. Initiatives like New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) and ComEd’s proposed Next Generation Energy Plan in Illinois are driving the need to address the wave of interconnection applications in new, more efficient ways. But this is only the beginning. Once these systems are livened on the grid, safety and reliability require transparency, predictability and the eventual control of these distributed customer systems. To date, technology, standards, and regulatory policy have not caught up with this need.

West Monroe Partners has been investing in developing solutions to address these needs for years and recently announced the next phase in that development. Supported in part through a United States Department of Energy grant, West Monroe Partners entered into a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC) and State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) to deliver a cutting edge set of planning and forecasting tools, as part of the ConnectTheGrid product suite. These new offerings will allow utilities and DER system owners and operators to more efficiently plan, forecast and control DER systems This partnership is intended to accelerate the adoption of photovoltaics and other DERs in the U.S. by removing barriers related to interconnection, operations, and control of non-utility owned systems by being able to monitor and control the smart inverters associated with the DERs.

Solar capacity is already growing faster than any other type of generation, including natural gas or wind.  This proliferation of connected systems opens new business opportunities for utilities and system owners that require a complex combination of communications, control, connectivity, and predictive analytics. SUNY, West Monroe and the PVMC share a vision that connected DER can be leveraged to reduce the cost associated with adding significant renewables and create new revenue streams, while also providing utilities the necessary monitoring and control to ensure grid safety and reliability. This development project aims to create the additional product modules to ConnectTheGrid that will deliver this capability to the marketplace.

PVMC is made up of a team of stakeholders across the solar value chain, including equipment vendors, technology experts and utilities who will work with West Monroe to collaborate to define the product requirements, and support the development and testing of the product to commercialize the ConnectTheGrid cloud-based software products focused on increasing efficiency, reducing costs in the areas of:

  • Facilitating interconnection by accelerating the capacity planning pre-application and application approval activities via automation and predictive modeling
  • Enhancing the accuracy of DER forecasting activities at the utilities and ISOs via advanced analytics and predictive modeling
  • Enabling the monitoring, control and dispatch of DER systems
  • Residential, C&I customers, ISOs and third-party contractors will experience lower costs directly related to the impact of these products on utility services to support higher penetration rates of renewables

West Monroe is excited to be a part of this initiative to deliver solutions to support the high growth of DER systems. We believe that the solutions developed will offer significant value to utilities and other companies traversing this rapidly evolving landscape while offering exceptional customer experiences and new value streams for DER owners and utilities.

For more information on how you can leverage ConnectTheGrid within your utility, please contact Tom Hulsebosch, thulsebosch@westmonroepartners.com and Sean Murphy, smurphy@westmonroepartners.com.

Tom Hulsebosch is a senior managing director, leader of the firm’s Energy & Utilities and Sustainability practices, and serves on the Board of Managers. Tom is also the product architect responsible of the ConnectTheGrid platform. A 25-year veteran of the utility, ISP and wireless telecommunication industries, he has extensive experience creating and delivering technology-enabled business solutions for utilities, enterprises, public safety agencies, and service providers. 

Sean Murphy is the product manager for the ConnectTheGrid product suite. Sean has over 20 years of experience defining and commercializing technology-based solutions for utilities, service providers, and mobile device manufacturers that serve both businesses and consumer markets around the world.