DERs—distributed energy resources—are transforming the way energy is generated and consumed. From homes to businesses to entire communities, DERs are becoming more and more ubiquitous. In this article, we’ll explore the role of DERs in energy production, and how the renewable, distributed energy future is unfolding before our very eyes.
1. What Are Distributed Energy Resources?
Distributed energy resources (DERs) are energy resources located and operated near the consumer or user, such as home solar systems, rooftop wind energy systems, and distributed-scale batteries. They have often been referred to as ‘behind-the-meter’ as the energy is generated and stored in locations behind the traditional electricity meter.
DERs provide substantial advantages for consumers, businesses and the electrical grid. They offer:
- Reduced electricity costs – DERs reduce the need for customers to purchase electricity from the grid, leading to overall lower electricity bills for consumers.
- More reliable electricity – DERs enable customers to produce electricity on-site, reducing the possibility of an outage due to grid failure.
- Emissions-free electricity – By using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, DERs can reduce our reliance on fossil-fuel energy production and help tackle the climate change crisis.
There is a growing interest in DERs, driven by the increased recognition of their benefits, the development of renewable energy sources, and the emergence of various technologies such as the internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing. These technologies enable efficient and cost-effective management of DERs in order to optimize their utilization.
The adoption of DERs brings with it many challenges, most notably the need to ensure their secure integration into the grid without compromising the energy supply or safety. For example, DERs may destabilize the grid’s voltage and frequency as the amount of energy being produced (and stored) may be subject to fluctuation due to the weather or other conditions.
The rapid uptake of DERs requires reliable and efficient technologies that can manage them while protecting the safety of the grid. The potential of DERs is enormous, as their widespread adoption has the potential to revolutionize the way energy is produced and consumed, as well as our overall approach to the climate change crisis.
2. The Benefits of Leveraging DERs
The distributed energy resources (DERs) can be very beneficial when leveraged correctly. DERs can bring together the efforts of both energy producers and energy consumers. This brings several distinct advantages compared to traditional large-scale energy production.
- Increased energy efficiency: DERs make use of smaller-scale production facilities that have higher efficiencies than large-scale power plants. This means more energy is saved, reducing long-term losses.
- Faster deployment rates: DERs are simple and easy to install. This means they can be deployed faster than traditional large-scale energy production facilities.
- Reduced reliance on central sources: Using DERs allows energy to be sourced locally. This reduces the need to rely on distant and unreliable sources, such as power lines and other infrastructure.
- Lower carbon emissions: DERs tend to be more reliable than traditional energy production methods, which often require large, centralized facilities. This means less fuel is wasted and fewer carbon emissions are created.
- More flexible pricing: By using DERs, pricing can be adjusted to match local and regional needs. This allows consumers to get the best rates for their energy needs.
Overall, the use of DERs can be an excellent way to realize energy benefits quickly and efficiently. By leveraging distributed energy resources, energy producers and consumers can work together to bring about profitable and carbon-friendly energy solutions.
3. Challenges Faced when Harnessing DERs
Harnessing distributed energy resources comes with a myriad of challenges. Here are some of them:
- Interconnection Issues: The complexity of interconnecting distributed energy resources with the grid has become a major challenge for utilities.
- Distribution System Operations: Utilities have to ensure the safe and reliable operation of their distribution systems when integrating distributed energy resources.
- Storage of Renewable Resources: The storage of renewable energy resources like solar and wind has become a major challenge as it limits the amount of available energy.
- Regulatory Barriers: Der is often regulated differently than bulk power systems, creating a barrier to using distributed energy resources as a viable means for supplying energy.
- Data Access and Management: Utilities have to access and manage a large amount of data when dealing with distributed energy resources.
- Grid Reliability: Utilities have to guarantee a reliable operation of the grid while integrating distributed energy resources.
Controlling and managing distributed energy resources can be costly, and overall, controlling and managing multiple sources of energy requires significant resources.
The integration of distributed energy resources in the power grid is a complex process, and as it yields significant technological, financial, and legal challenges, utilities are struggling to harness distributed energy resources effectively.
4. Strategies for Dealing with Infrastructure Constraints
When it comes to managing energy resources, facility- and grid-level infrastructure constraints often present significant challenges. Smart operators are increasingly leveraging Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) to deal with these issues and to significantly improve system performance. By tapping into the potential of these strategic DER solutions, operators can maximize the efficiency of their operations and maximize the return on their energy investments.
1. Smart Programmable Loads
Programmable loads can be an extremely useful way to monitor and control facility power use. Smart load control programs allow users to optimize their power consumption and curb peak loads, thereby improving the efficiency of their operations and reducing the load on the grid. Energy management systems can easily be used to automate programmable load regulation, helping operators to save both energy and money.
2. On-site Energy Storage
- Integrating on-site energy storage solutions into existing energy systems can help facilities house energy reserves when the grid is disrupted, enabling facilities to maintain a steady energy supply instead of experiencing costly outages.
- On-site energy storage can also be used to balance energy demand, shift peak loads, and take advantage of lowered energy prices during off-peak hours.
3. Virtual Power Plants
By deploying Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) to its production facilities, operators can optimize their energy production across multiple sites and take advantage of load shifting and demand response opportunities. VPPs can help operators effectively manage their facility energy production, while eliminating inefficiencies and leveraging renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
Microgrids are autonomous energy systems that allow facility operators to manage their energy production independently from the wider electricity grid. This can present significant advantages in terms of energy security and reliability, especially in the case of remote or isolated applications. By tapping into the potential of microgrids, operators can generate and store their own energy, while creating a more resilient and self-sufficient energy system.
5. Optimizing the Use of DERs in Different Scenarios
Utilising DERs in Local Networks
DERs can be used to balance electricity demands in local networks. This can help to reduce the strain on the network infrastructure by enabling distribution utilities or grids to accommodate both peak and non-peak demand. The use of DERs can provide grid reliability and flexibility and can also be used to reduce peak demand charges, as well as helping to manage a peak loads throughout the day.
More Optimal Demand Response
In addition, DERs can enable remote access to demand response resources and more optimal demand response capabilities. This means that households and businesses can take advantage of grid-friendly electricity pricing, meaning that they can take advantage of the lower cost of electricity during periods of low demand. This could also benefit grid operators, as it can help reduce peak demand charges and reduce the need for additional infrastructure.
Meeting Renewable Energy Targets
DERs can also be used to help meet renewable energy targets. This is possible due to the fact that DERs can be used to integrate distributed renewable generation, such as rooftop solar and wind turbines, into the grid. This can help to reduce the need for expensive infrastructure upgrades and can also help reduce emissions.
Reliability and Resiliency Benefits
Finally, DERs can also provide added reliability and resiliency benefits. For example, if there is a sudden outage on the electricity grid, or if there is a storm that disrupts the grid, DERs can help to provide backup power to households and businesses. This can help to reduce the severity of the grid outage and reduce the time it takes to restore power.
In short, DERs can provide grid operators with significant benefits in terms of reliability, flexibility, and cost savings. They can also be used to help meet renewable energy targets and provide added reliability and resiliency benefits. For grid operators, harnessing the power of distributed energy resources can be an effective way to address their energy needs.
6. Policies and Regulations for Harnessing DERs
Making the Most of Distributed Energy Resources: With the rise of distributed energy resources (DERs), it is important to understand how to best harness these resources in order to maximize their efficiency and maximize savings. Policies and regulations provide a framework for how these resources are to be monitored and used, in order to reap their potential benefits while not adversely impacting other systems. Here’s a look at some of the key aspects of policies and regulations on the use of DERs.
- Net Metering Rules: Net metering rules or policies allow homeowners to sell the energy they generate from renewable sources to the grid. Net metering will also require limits on the amount of energy that can be sold and price ceilings to ensure that all stakeholders are appropriately compensated.
- Safe Interconnection Rules: To ensure the safety of the electricity infrastructure and other users, safe interconnection rules are necessary. These encompass a variety of aspects, such as service voltage levels, fault currents, and protection.
- DER Regulatory Compliance: DER regulatory compliance is required to ensure that the resources are used responsibly. This may include requirements from the local utilities or governing bodies, such as the installation of safety equipment and inspections.
- Integrating DERs with Other System Components: As the use of DERs increases, they will need to be integrated with other components, such as batteries, on-site generators, and related infrastructure. Regulation and policy will need to reflect this, as well as potential incentives to make it economically feasible for homeowners to invest in renewable energy sources.
- Environmental Impact: Along with the financial and economic benefits of using DERs, regulations are often put in place to address environmental considerations, such as data collection and monitoring. This will help to ensure that DERs are being used responsibly.
It is important to note that regulation and policy on the use of DERs is in a constant state of flux. Companies must stay on top of changes in order to make the most out of these resources, and take advantage of the benefits that they bring to the table.
7. The Way Forward with DERs
As the energy industry evolves, distributed energy resources (DERs) are picking up momentum as a value proposition for both utilities and end customers. With the proliferation of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, coupled with the rise of smart energy technologies, it becomes clear that DERs have a major role to play in future energy systems. This article will explore the different types of DERs, where DERs are making inroads, and the way forward for harnessing distributed energy resources.
Types of Distributed Energy Resources
- Solar PV
- Energy storage
- Combined heat and power (CHP)
- Demand-side response (DSR)
The uptake of distributed energy resources has been overwhelming, with various countries making significant headway in integrating various DERs into their energy systems. In particular, many countries are now investing heavily in energy storage as well as microgrids to reduce the reliance on centralized plants. The potential in DERs is far-reaching and has the potential to revolutionize the energy sector.
Where DERs Are Gaining Momentum
- Australia, where microgrids and solar PV are gaining traction
- China, where wind turbines and solar solutions are combining to generate more than 10,000 megawatts of distributed generation
- India, which is expected to become one of the largest solar energy markets in the world with a target of achieving 40 GW of rooftop solar by 2022
The development of distributed energy deployments has often been hampered by regulatory and policy uncertainty, but there is reason to be optimistic about the future of DERs. New energy models such as microgrids could become an economical alternative to traditional grid-only power systems, and policy developments such as the UK’s Smart Systems and Flexibility Plans are paving the way for more integrated and inclusive energy markets.
- Standardized framework for DERs: Establishing a standardized framework for DERs is essential to enable the full potential of DERs to be realized. This framework should be tailored to the needs of the specific country or region, but should include a clear description of regulations, integration processes, and cost structures.
- Enhancing grid infrastructure’s ability to integrate DERs: Modernizing existing grid infrastructure and investing in new technologies will help to better manage the variability of DERs and ensure the delivery of reliable energy.
- Implementing incentives for DERs: Incentives can help to increase the uptake of DERs and make them more accessible to end customers. Examples of incentives include tax credits, feed-in tariffs, net metering, and climate change regulations.
- Developing new business models: New business models such as energy communities and peer-to-peer trading platforms are emerging to facilitate the integration of DERs into markets. These models can help to capture the full value of DERs and create new opportunities for both utilities and customers.
The shift towards distributed energy resources is becoming increasingly evident, and as the industry continues to evolve, there is established potential for these resources to dramatically shape the energy system of the future. From incentives to business models, the focus must now be on creating a supportive framework to make the most of the advantages of DERs.
Q: What is a DER?
A: A DER, or Distributed Energy Resource, is a system of generation and storage technology located close to the user or consumers of energy.
Q: What are the benefits of using DERs?
A: DERs provide a range of benefits such as improved utility reliability, grid flexibility, reduced energy costs and emissions, and increased energy efficiency.
Q: How do DERs help reduce energy costs?
A: The close proximity of DERs to the customers or consumers of energy allows them to take advantage of local energy sources that are cheaper than energy from the grid, thus reducing costs.
Q: What are some examples of DERs?
A: Examples of DERs include solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, batteries, fuel cells, demand side management (DSM) programs, and distributed generators.
Q: What is the role of the grid in DERs?
A: The grid is essential for DERs in order to transmit and distribute energy to consumers. DERs are connected to the grid, which allows them to store energy for later use or to draw power from the grid when necessary.
Q: How can DERs help with creating a more reliable utility system?
A: By providing sources of energy close to the users, DERs can help reduce strain on the utility system and can be used as backups in case of outages or other disruptions to the system.
Q: Are DERs only used in residential areas?
A: No, DERs can be used to create smart communities in both residential and commercial areas. For example, DERs can help lower energy bills, increase reliability, and reduce emissions in businesses by combining renewable energy sources with storage. By harnessing Distributed Energy Resources, or DERs, we can create a smarter and more sustainable future. As renewable energy technology continues to advance, we are sure to discover more innovative ways to reduce our environmental footprint. Until then, DERs remain an important and exciting part of the clean energy revolution.