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Country’s utilities and government regulators are focused on aggressive electrification, decentralization, and digitization efforts, report finds

A second structural impediment to fully realizing DER benefits is the current grid planning approach, which biases grid design toward traditional infrastructure rather than distributed alternatives, even if distributed solutions better meet grid needs. Outdated planning approaches rely on static assumptions about DER capabilities and focus primarily on mitigating potential DER integration challenges, rather than proactively harnessing these flexible assets.

Section II demonstrated how California could realize an additional $1.4 billion per year by 2020 in net benefits from the deployment of new DERs during the 2016-2020 timeframe. This state-wide methodology was then applied to the planned distribution capacity projects for California’s most recent GRC request, showing how the deployment of DERs in lieu of planned distribution capacity expansion projects in PG&E’s next rate case could save customers over $100 million. 

Motivated by the challenge faced in designing a grid appropriate to the 21st century, this report first focuses on determining the quantifiable net economic benefits that DERs can offer to society. The approach taken builds on existing avoided cost methodologies – which have already been applied to DERs by industry leaders – while introducing updated methods to hardto-quantify DER benefit categories that are excluded from traditional analyses. While the final net benefit calculation derived in this report is specific to California, the overall methodological advancements developed here are applicable across the U.S. Moreover, the ultimate conclusion from this analysis – that DERs offer a better alternative to many traditional infrastructure solutions in advancing the 21st century grid – should also hold true across the U.S., although the exact net benefits of DERs will vary across regions.

Designing the electric grid for the 21st century is one of today’s most important and exciting societal challenges. Regulators, legislators, utilities, and private industry are evaluating ways to both modernize the aging grid and decarbonize our electricity supply, while also enabling customer choice, increasing resiliency and reliability, and improving public safety, all at an affordable cost.

The share of renewables in overall power generation is rapidly increasing, both in developed and developing countries. Furthermore, many countries have ambitious targets to transform their power sector towards renewables. To achieve these objectives, the structure and operation of existing power grid infrastructures will need to be revisited as the share of renewable power generation increases.

Renewable energy technologies can be divided into two categories: dispatchable (i.e. biomass, concentrated solar power with storage, geothermal power and hydro) and non-dispatchable, also known as Variable Renewable Energy or VRE (i.e. ocean power, solar photovoltaics and wind). VRE has four characteristics that require specific measures to integrate these technologies into current power systems: 1) variability due to the temporal availability of resources; 2) uncertainty due to unexpected changes in resource availability; 3) location-specific properties due to the geographical availability of resources; and 4) low marginal costs since the resources are freely available.

A transition towards high shares of VRE requires a re-thinking of the design, operation and planning of future power systems from a technical and economic point of view. In such a system, supply and demand will be matched in a much more concerted and flexible way. From a technical perspective, VRE generation can be ideally combined with smart grid technologies, energy storage and more flexible generation technologies. From an economic perspective, the regulatory framework will need to be adjusted to account for the cost structure of VRE integration, to allow for new services and revenue channels, and to support new business models.

There are several technological options that can help to integrate VRE into the power system grid: system-friendly VREs, flexible generation, grid extension, smart grid technologies, and storage technologies. New advances in wind and solar PV technologies allow them to be used over a wider range of conditions and provide ancillary services like frequency and voltage control. Flexible generation requires changes in the energy mix to optimise production from both dispatchable and non-dispatchable resources. Smart grid technologies can act as an enabler for VRE integration, given their ability to reduce the variability in the system by allowing the integration of renewables into diverse electricity resources, including load control (e.g. Demand Side Management (DSM), Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), and enhancing the grid operation and therefore helping to efficiently manage the system’s variability by implementing advanced technologies (e.g. smart inverters, Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) and Fault Ride Through (FRT) capabilities).

Energy storage technologies can alleviate short-term variability (up to 2 Renewable Energy Integration in Power Grids | Technology Brief several hours), or longer-term variability through pumped-storage hydroelectricity, thermal energy storage or the conversion of electricity into hydrogen or gas.

Two immediate applications for deploying innovative technologies and operation modes for VRE integration are mini-grids and island systems. The high costs for power generation in these markets make VREs and grid integration technologies economically attractive since they can simultaneously improve the reliability, efficiency and performance of these power systems. This is, for example, the case of the Smart Grid demonstration project in Jeju Island, South Korea.

Furthermore, the right assessment and understanding of VRE integration costs are relevant for policy making and system planning. Any economic analysis of the transition towards renewables-based power systems should, therefore, consider all different cost components for VRE grid integration, such as grid costs (e.g. expansion and upgrading), capacity costs and balancing costs. Integration costs are due not only to the specific characteristics of VRE technologies but also to the power system and its adaptability to greater variability. Therefore, these costs should be carefully interpreted and not entirely attributed to VRE, especially when the system is not flexible enough to deal with variability (i.e. in the short-term).

Moreover, RE integration delivers broader benefits beyond purely economic ones, such as social and environmental benefits. Even though not straightforward, these externalities should be considered and quantified in order to integrate them into the decision-making process and maximise socio-economic benefits.

Due to the rapid technological progress and multiple grid integration options available, policy makers should build a framework for RE grid integration based on the current characteristic of the system, developing technological opportunities and long-term impacts and targets. In particular, policy makers should adopt a long-term vision for their transition towards renewables and set regulatory frameworks and market designs to foster both RE development and management of greater system variability. Such regulatory frameworks could include new markets for ancillary services and price signals for RE power generators that incentivise the reduction of integration costs.


The U.S. Department of Energy has announced the selection of 10 projects as part of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, Duration Addition to electricitY Storage.


Hohhot Co., Ltd. operates a pump-storage plant (PSP) in Inner Mongolia, China, that supplements a wind farm and provides peak demand power, supplemental power capacity when production is reduced, and energy storage for stand-by emergency power and frequency regulation.

The operating conditions of the Hohhot PSP are harsh and required a specific design of pump turbines and motor-generators that includes:

Higher stability while operating over a large head range
Ability to withstand load and thermal cycles due to frequent starts and stops
Higher availability to cope with demand from the grid.


GE installed four reversible, 306 MW Francis pump turbines and motor generator units at the PSP plant, and furnished technical and quality support for the unit equipment.

The motor generator’s upper bracket, rotor spider and stator frame were equipped with patented oblique elements that allow thermal expansion without moving parts, resulting in a maintenance free solution. Since this greatly reduces element fatigue and permits smaller clearances, the generators are more compact, efficient and reliable.

The maintenance-free oblique elements increase generator lifetime and—given their smaller foundation – decrease construction costs.



The PSP entered commercial operation in 2014 and the customer uses the plant to complement their wind farm production, as well as to provide the electrical network with power for peak demand, supplemental power for periods of reduced production, energy storage for emergency power stand-by and frequency regulation.

Courtesy GE Renewable Energy

Invenergy has a long track record of betting on winners: in 2002, the company realized the potential power of wind energy, and today Invenergy is the largest independent, privately-held renewable energy provider in North America. But their commitment to renewable energy innovation and its future trends continues. Amy Francetic and John Tough, both from the Invenergy Future Fund, explained in GE Reports why digital technologies are a win for industry watchers.

First let’s define the idea of the “energy application layer”—it’s how energy infrastructure is integrating software and digital solutions across their network and assets to create a new future for renewable energy. Not only does this accelerate digital innovation in 2017 and beyond, it creates a stronger economy with more renewable energy jobs. Last year, more than a quarter million new jobs were added to the solar, wind, and energy efficiency industries. Great news for job seekers—and consumers, since that also helps the cost of renewables go down.

And speaking of affordability—renewable technologies in 2017 are cheaper than nuclear and coal, and on par with combined-cycle natural gas. And with the lowered costs of digital equipment—sensors, CPUs, and data storage technologies, just to name a few—the industry will continue to incorporate the latest digital innovations into its plans for the future.

According to a prediction on the trend of renewable energy innovation from a global perspective, Francetic and Tough stated the idea that: “New business models will emerge — blending software and services. Companies will thrive in three primary business solution areas: Data analytics and cybersecurity, Operational efficiency and Controls for distributed energy and storage. The industry leaders and savvy investors who embrace this coming wave of energy innovation will reap the rewards.”

Learn more about GE Renewable Energy’s approach to digital innovations in renewable energy.

Courtesy GE Renewable Energy

International collaboration enables the sharing of risks, rewards and progress, and the co-ordination of priorities in areas such as technology, policy, regulation and business models. In order to reach the goals set out in this roadmap, smart grids need to be rapidly developed, demonstrated and deployed based on a range of drivers that vary across regions globally. Many countries have made significant efforts to develop smart grids, but the lessons learned are not being shared in a co-ordinated fashion. Major international collaboration is needed to expand RDD&D investment in all areas of smart grids – but especially in standards, policy, regulation and business model development. These efforts will require the strengthening of existing institutions and activities, as well as the creation of new joint initiatives.

Collaborating on a policy and regulatory environment that supports smart grid investment is perhaps the single most important task for all stakeholders in the electricity sector. A lack of collaboration has already led to problems in demonstration and deployment projects. As with most policy issues, the key is to find the right balance in sharing costs, benefits and risks. The responsibility for achieving this balance lies with regulators and, in some cases, legislators, but must include input from all stakeholders.

The need for commercial-scale demonstration:- The existing smart grid technology landscape is highly diverse. Some technology areas exhibit high levels of maturity while others are still developing and not ready for deployment. Although continued investments in research and development are needed, it is even more important to increase investments in demonstration projects that capture real-world data, integrated with regulatory and business model structures, and to work across segmented system boundaries – especially interacting with end-use customers. While this is happening currently as a result of stimulus funding (Table 5), it is vital that it continue to expand. Only through large-scale demonstrations – allowing for shared learning, reduction of risks and dissemination of best practices – can the deployment of smart grids be accelerated. Current levels of political ambition appear to be sufficient, but high quality analysis and positive demonstration outcomes must be highlighted to sustain these levels.

The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) recently concluded a year-long series of white papers examining state-level efforts to modernize the American utility grid. As we’ve previously explored, the creation of a stable, sustainable electric grid is a vital step towards a future in which consumers have greater choice over the source of their power.

Microgrids are a popular topic of discussion these days. In fact, we recently analyzed solar energy trend forecasts and found that microgrids and distributed generation are at the top of the list.

Emerging technology always has a wide and somewhat unpredictable impact. Over the last decade, we’ve seen multiple industries reshaped by disruptive new technologies with major consumer support. Consider how the sharing economy has impacted the hospitality industry and the ways mobile apps have altered brick-and-mortar banking. Now, the power industry is facing an equally foundational sea change.

· A new approach to electric mobility is needed to stimulate economic growth and reduce carbon emissions, says new Forum report

· Electrified autonomous vehicles will revolutionize urban mobility by reducing travel costs by up to 40% and cut down CO2 marginal emissions to 0

· Generation of new jobs, combined with resulting improvements in air quality, will benefit human health and could result in up to $635 billion of value creation for society by 2030

The growing use of information and communications technology – digitalization – is increasingly permeating modern life, from the way people work and travel to the way they live and entertain. Digitalization is increasingly having an impact on energy systems, bringing both the potential for substantial efficiency and system improvements and raising new policy issues. 

The opportunities and challenges raised by the intersection of digitalization and energy were the focus of a two-day workshop held by the International Energy Agency in Paris this month that brought together more than 120 global experts. This workshop was part of an extensive effort by the IEA to examine the relationship between digitalization and energy that will result in a comprehensive report published in October.

The IEA has deep experience analysing the impact of technology, business and policy changes on energy systems. Through its work on smart grids, system integration of renewables, electric vehicles and smart charging, and the use of technology in the oil and gas sector, the IEA has been analysing the impact of digitalization for many years. One of its most-downloaded reports, “More Data, Less Energy,” examined the implications of connected devices on energy demand.

“Every unit of the IEA – from efficiency to investment, from electricity to transportation, from renewables to modelling, from sustainability to statistics – is examining the implications of digitalization on the energy sector,” says Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. “The interest in this topic is strong, but the world’s current understanding of the scale and scope of its potential remains limited, particularly when it comes to analytically-rigorous assessments.” 

The IEA’s workshop, which was held under Chatham House Rule, examined critical questions that will help inform future analysis and policy recommendations. Speakers and participants represented IEA member and partner governments worldwide, well-established energy companies and new start-ups, major ICT companies, financial actors, environmental organizations, and researchers.

Workshop participants addressed questions such as:  How big an impact will digitalization have on energy systems? Which companies and business models are best positioned to take advantage of opportunities presented by digitalization? How can governments and regulators make sure that businesses and consumers benefits from digitalization? And what are the most significant challenges and obstacles?

The various speakers explained how digitalization has already led to higher efficiency in operations throughout the energy supply chain, thanks to better analytics, the use of virtual facilities, the introduction of automation and artificial intelligence, and the use of quantum computing technologies.

Thanks to sensors, remote analysis and drones, for instance, operators can use predictive maintenance to extend the life of power generation, transmission and distribution assets. Big data in seismic mapping has significantly increased recoverable resources in oil and gas. The workshop also explored how digital technologies are starting to enable new linkages and interactions between energy supply and demand. Remote control of energy assets such as distributed generation and storage resources within smart grids can enable better electricity load management.

The workshop examined the significant challenges from digital disruption to existing energy business models, and how various market actors are positioning themselves to take advantage of opportunities. Participants explored key policy challenges, including data privacy, ownership, and standardization to strengthening digital resilience, as well as providing a sound regulatory environment for dealing with quickly-evolving technology and workforce challenges.  

The IEA’s forthcoming study aims to provide new insight and perspective, accurate data and information, and highlight key case studies. The report will include an assessment of the potential value that digitalization could generate and to help advise policy-makers on how to enable and protect those gains.

“We’re all entering this brave new world together – whether as business competitors or potential partners, government regulators, or other key actors and stakeholders,” Dr Birol noted in his opening remarks to the workshop, “Our hope is that the IEA can provide analytically-rigorous insight and perspective in order to help all actors of the energy sector navigate the digitalization and energy landscape in the most sensible, cost-effective manner possible.” 

Courtesy International Energy Agency

BEIJING – The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) announced a new campaign called EV 30@30 to speed up the deployment of electric vehicles and target at least 30 percent new electric vehicle sales by 2030. 

The campaign will support the market for electric passenger cars, light commercial vans, buses and trucks (including battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicle types). It will also work towards the deployment of charging infrastructure to supply sufficient power to the vehicles deployed.

The CEM Electric Vehicle Initiative (EVI) recognizes the importance of reducing carbon emissions in the transportation sector, which account for almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the fastest-growing energy end use sectors. It also recognizes the importance of working towards energy efficiency and the mitigation of air pollution from transportation. These environmental, economic and social goals can be addressed through the accelerated electrification of the transportation sector.

The new sales target will apply collectively to the CEM-EVI membership, and not to individual countries. Governments who endorse the goal show leadership by establishing policies to reach the target and engage through EVI to report progress and share best practices.

The global electric car stock reached more than 2 million vehicles in 2016, after crossing the million-car threshold in 2015, according to the latest Global EV Outlook report. Still, the scale achieved so far remains small. The global electric car stock currently accounts for just 0.2% of the total amount of passenger light duty vehicles in circulation.

“Despite the progress so far, electric vehicles still have a long way to go before reaching a scale that would make a significant dent in global oil demand growth and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency. “But the Electric Vehicles Initiative’s latest campaign can provide a significant boost to this critical market.”

The new campaign aims to galvanize public and private sector commitments for EV fleet procurement and deployment, strengthening the work begun with the EVI Government Fleet Declaration for public fleets, and reaching out to businesses for commitments on the electrification of private fleets.

It also seeks to expand research on the scale up of EV deployment, including such topics as policy efficacy, barriers to adoption, the electrification of public transportation, grid integration and load management, and synergies with automated, connected and shared vehicles. It will also establish a Global EV Pilot City program to reach 100 electric vehicle-friendly cities around the World over five years.

The announcement was made during the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM8) held in Beijing on 6-8 June.

CEM-EVI participants include Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The campaign is organized by the CEM-Electric Vehicles Initiative, coordinated by the International Energy Agency.

Governments supporting the EV30@30 campaign include Canada, China, Finland, France, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The EV30@30 campaign is also supported by C40, the FIA Foundation, the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), the Natural Resource Defence Council (NRDC), the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT), The Climate Group, UN Environment, UN Habitat, and the International Zero Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance).

The CEM is a unique partnership of 25 key countries, including most of the G20 economies, representing 90% of clean energy investment and working together to accelerate the global energy transition.

Canada recognizes the key role electric vehicles will play in reducing emissions from the transportation sector, which will help us achieve our climate change and clean growth objectives while driving the economy.

- Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources 

The EV30@30 campaign complements India’s ambition towards increased electric mobility to meet its developmental and environmental challenges. India has the world’s most ambitious renewable energy capacity addition programme and electric vehicles offer potential synergies with this initiative.

- Shri Pradeep Kumar Pujari, Secretary of Power, Government of India

The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 gives a boost to the ambitions of the Netherlands in e-mobility, the transition to renewable energy and business opportunities in the field of charging infrastructure and the automotive sector. It’s our goal to have 100% of all new registered cars in 2035 being zero-emission cars. In 2016 the Netherlands had a market share of new registered electric cars of 6.4% - the largest in the European Union.

- Henk Kamp, Minister of Economic Affairs, the Netherlands

Sweden intends to become one of the world's first fossil-free welfare nations. To reach that ambition it is absolutely crucial to reduce the emissions from the transport sector nationally as well as globally. International cooperation, such as the promotion and support to electric vehicles through the EVI, is an important part of the work to reduce the emissions from transport.

- Ibrahim Baylan, Swedish Minister of Energy

We need to see a rapid, global shift towards electric cars and other vehicles. This is not only so we can cut carbon emissions and reduce climate change, but also because urban air pollution is one of the world's biggest killers and a major public health emergency.

We want all countries to join this campaign and promote electric mobility. UN Environment is supporting close to fifty countries and cities around the world to make this positive change, and will support where we can in order to push policy change. Our lungs and our planet depend on our collective leadership.

- Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment

The Climate Group is excited to see the continuous growth of momentum for electro-mobility from both governments and business. We welcome the collective ambition and the concrete implementing actions set out by the CEM EVI’s 30@30 initiative, and look forward to collaborating closely with the governments and other stakeholders involved to build dialogue and knowledge sharing between public and private stakeholders and leverage the role corporate demand can play in driving EV uptake.

- Mike Peirce, Corporate Partnerships Director, The Climate Group

Raised ambitions are needed now more than ever before as we unite in collective intent to build a better future. The world is on a mission to bend the curve of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and we can’t be late. To ensure we collectively reach that turning point a series of milestones must be met, including zero-emission transport being the preferred form of all new mobility in the world’s major cities and transport routes by 2020.

Reaching that crucial milestone will help ensure that EV30@30 becomes reality: it is necessary, desirable and most importantly achievable.

- Christiana Figueres, Vice-Chair, Global Covenant of Mayors Climate and Energy, and Former Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The 30@30 initiative has the potential to be a game changer  for transport’s contribution to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport (SLoCaT) will actievly support the EV30@30 campaign in the Marrakech Partnership on Global Climate Action of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where SLoCaT operates as thematic coordinator for transport.

  • Cornie Huizenga, Secretary General, Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport and Co-founder Paris Process on Mobility and Climate

Courtesy International Energy Agency

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