- A new SolarCity white paper proposes distribution system operators such as utilities adopt a distribution loading order similar to California’s wholesale loading order as a basis for planning the integration of distributed energy resources (DERs), including rooftop solar, energy storage, electric vehicles' stored power, energy efficiency, and demand response.
- SolarCity argues DERs should be chosen first to meet load on a “least cost, best fit” basis. DERs contracted in formal procurements would be second, according to the Integrated Distribution Planning paper. Only after their viability is considered should a utility invest customer money on wires, poles, and transformers.
- With comprehensive prioritized integration, providers of DERs could access the billion-dollar grid support services market that will be needed as high penetrations of renewables and new forms of customer demand impose new requirements on distribution system operators.
Integrated distribution planning, SolarCity’s paper explains, is a holistic approach to meeting the needs of the system while at the same time giving customers’ more choice. It would necessitate streamlining interconnection of DERs to the distribution system and using new planning, procurement, and data sharing methods.
To do the necessary planning, utilities will need to complete and extend the kind of thorough analyses of their distribution systems required by the California Public Utilities Commission Distributed Resource Planning docket. Eventually, interconnection of DERs should be automated.
Finally, distribution loading order policies will be needed to provide incentives to utilities that choose to procure cost-effective DERs in preference to investing customer money in the system hardware and smart inverters for which they earn guaranteed returns.
“It is a new paradigm and it will take time,” SolarCity Grid Engineering Director and paper author Ryan Hanley told Utility Dive. “But it is not something that isn’t already done at the wholesale level.”