The United States faces a critical national vulnerability: over-reliance on the electric grid that serves us very well under normal conditions but is vulnerable to prolonged disruptions from a range of natural and man-made hazards, despite the historical best practices of regulated utilities. Long duration outages lasting more than one week-and potentially months-are rare, but outage frequency and duration are increasing and the risks of severe disruptions are growing. National planning and action to reduce these risks is thus far insufficient to the scale of the problem, and evidently national preparedness for this type of emergency is lacking. A large burden of preparedness falls on state and local shoulders.
The good news is that solutions are available to reduce these risks and provide other benefits as well. The Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources commissioned a report, Resilient Microgrids for Critical Services. In the wake of multi-day power outages due to severe weather events in recent years, OER sought consultant support for design of a program intended to enhance the energy assurance of critical infrastructure through deployment of distributed energy resources and other means. This effort draws from lessons learned in other states with similar programs. This report describes technologies, procurement strategies, and polices that can contribute to microgrid development.
Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) such as combined heat and power, solar energy, wind power, energy storage and energy efficiency can deliver energy services at lower cost, risk and pollution than can the grid alone. Growing deployment of these solutions is increasingly economical due to technological innovation and state-level energy policies. Microgrids can integrate DERs with controls and switchgear to enable both grid-connected and grid-independent operations to energize society’s critical infrastructure when the power is out, and provide other benefits that help maximize DERs' value during normal "blue sky" operations. State level policies and programs can accelerate deployment of these technologies by addressing barriers in the marketplace and the current legal and regulatory environment.
The Resilient Microgrids for Critical Services Report, may be found here.
The Resilient Microgrids for Critical Services Executive Summary, may be found here.
For further information about the Microgrids Report, please contact:
Office of Energy Resources
Rhode Island’s 2006 Comprehensive Energy Conservation, Efficiency, and Affordability Act established the state’s landmark “Least-Cost Procurement” policy, which requires electric and natural gas distribution companies to invest in “all cost-effective” energy efficiency before the acquisition of additional supply. The law contains an important and innovative provision requiring electric distribution companies (National Grid, “the Company”) to develop an annual “System Reliability Procurement” (SRP) Plan, which must strategically consider an array of customer and utility-sited energy resources to maximize their benefit to Rhode Island’s energy system. These “non-wires alternatives” (NWAs) include but are not limited to cost-effective energy efficiency measures, distributed generation and demand response measures that are targeted toward reducing the peak loads on the electricity grid. The Company is asked to assess whether an array of such resources could be deployed to avoid dirtier “peaking” generators and defer distribution (and potentially transmission) system investments. Deferring distribution system investments could provide savings over time for customers and could lower the volatility and cost uncertainty of the larger energy and capacity markets in New England by securing sources of energy supply and capacity from in-state resources.
Since 2012, National Grid has been conducting an SRP pilot called “DemandLink” in Tiverton and Little Compton. This pilot is designed to defer the need for a new substation feeder in the Tiverton/Little Compton region through at least 2017 by targeting energy efficiency measures and conducting a demand response program in the area that will reduce the load on specific feeders attributable to customer air conditioning, lighting, and other summer-peaking loads. If the pilot is successful in enrolling and providing 1 megawatt (MW) of sustained load relief over its planned lifecycle, it will result in deferred construction of a new substation feeder estimated to cost $2.9 million for four years.
For those that live in the Tiverton or Little Compton area, please click here for additional information about the SRP: https://www.myngrid.com/demandlink
In 2014, the OER and National Grid commissioned a study by Peregrine Energy Group, Inc. to explore how distributed renewable energy—specifically solar—could play a role in Rhode Island’s system reliability efforts. The goal of the study was to better understand the viability, costs, and benefits for solar distributed generation (DG) to reduce peak loads on the electric distribution system, possibly leading to distribution investment deferral. The Peregrine study considered Rhode Island’s current System Reliability Procurement pilot in the towns of Tiverton and Little Compton and developed: (1) solar deployment options and a proposed configuration for a portfolio of solar DG to meet 250 kW of summer peak load reduction; and (2) an implementation strategy to solicit participation in a pilot and deploy the DG resources.
A copy of the Peregrine Energy Group, Inc. study “Solar PV for Distribution Grid Support” may be found here
For further information about the SRP, please contact:
Office of Energy Resources