The Power Grid of the Future: Choice, Innovation, Opportunity, and Challenge
Today’s energy customers are increasingly seeking choice in how they manage their energy. They are adopting distributed energy resources (DERs)—rooftop solar, onsite energy storage, electric vehicles, and energy management systems—to achieve cost savings, cleaner energy, conservation, and enhanced reliability.
In response, the industry has begun an era of reinvention to enable these choices and create a clean, reliable energy future.
A modern electricity distribution grid and enhanced utility capabilities will be vital to facilitating these choices and helping customers maximize their investments—while improving the reliability and affordability of the grid for everyone.
Decisions made now on how to embrace this change will have profound implications for how the energy grid adapts to meet consumer needs and reduce carbon emissions for the rest of the twenty-first century.
Harnessing the Potential of Distributed Energy Resources
To facilitate the transformation, the local power grid must become a plug-and-play platform that integrates an ever-growing set of DER technologies.
Utilities will expand their capabilities as Distribution System Operators (DSOs) that plan and manage a modernized plug-and-play grid.
By connecting to this platform, DER owners access a grid that supports their needs as customers and markets that increase the value of their investment. Maximizing this potential for all customers requires a thoughtful approach that:
- Modernizes and reinforces the grid and its operations to improve reliability and integrate distributed resources and other carbon reducing technologies;
- Connects DERs to markets that provide new revenue opportunities; and
- Transitions to customer rate designs and DER programs that better reflect the benefits and costs of distributed resources.
Enabling and encouraging DERs will facilitate greater customer choice—while also helping achieve clean energy policies and facilitating the growth of new markets for energy products and services.
These massive changes to the grid and markets will take time—possibly more than a decade—to accomplish. But, if utilities, regulators, and distributed energy providers come together now with a sense of urgency, the foundation developing now will be established by the turn of the decade: with functioning markets for DERs, a modernized grid in priority locations, informed customers, proven resource providers, and reduced carbon emissions. Underpinning this, utilities will evolve to become facilitators of customer choice and the clean energy economy by unlocking the benefits of DERs while enhancing the reliability critical to everyone.