The strength of our foundations will be both a theme and a measure of resilience in 2017. As considerable changes permeate the federal landscape and seep into our economic, environmental, social and energy spheres, the foundations upon which historic clean energy growth has been built will be put to the test.
State and local governments will remain at the epicenter of clean energy deployment and policy innovation. Policies and regulations that served as foundations for impressive growth trends for renewables, energy efficiency and distributed energy resources (DERs) will persist as paramount. Heightened demand for fair access to advanced energy technologies, smarter systems and cutting edge innovations will accompany proposals addressing equity, consumer protection and empowerment.
Seamlessly incorporating new DERs on the electric grid, while ensuring grid safety and reliability, will enhance the focus on the grid’s foundational functions. We expect an uptick in new interconnection proceedings, in response to pressures and procedural challenges associated with a surge in grid-connected DERs. Revamping outdated interconnection standards and processes to align them with proven models and well-vetted procedures will be the key to avoiding grid-lock.
More states will tackle comprehensive grid modernization, shifting the focus toward optimizing DERs on the grid. “Integrated distribution planning” will gain more traction as a strategy to enable smarter DER growth. Adopting this more holistic planning approach, as begun in New York and California, will help pinpoint the most optimal locations for DERs, avoid costly upgrades to the grid, and enable non-wires alternatives. Distribution system planning is the new frontier for efficient and cost effective DER integration; robust hosting capacity analyses along with accurate DER forecasting will be the building blocks for success.
Lastly, state commissions will continue to address the foundational issues of rate design and DER valuation. As attempts to alter net metering continue, how this core policy evolves will have ripple effects across markets, and will also impact other solar access policies, i.e., for shared renewables and multifamily solar.
As states continue investigations of the value of DERs, enhanced pressure from all sides will encourage accuracy. In 2017 we’ll see the emergence of more granular, location-based DER pricing schemes. And we expect more states to address the bigger elephant in the room: the utility business model.
In the face of future uncertainties, may our foundations prove to be both robust and resilient.
This content originally appeared on January 5, 2017 in Utility Dive Predictions 2017: 5 takes on what the new year will bring for renewable energy.