Realizing the benefits of bringing utilities together to share their experiences, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity (OE) launched Voices of Experience to collect the experiences, insights, and lessons learned of utility representatives implementing emerging technology. Utility staff shares their industry knowledge to help all utilities plan for operational challenges in this changing industry.

Decarbonization Strategies and Grid Planning 

Utilities are increasingly announcing ambitious carbon reduction goals, whether they are mandated or voluntary. No universal blueprint exists to reduce carbon in energy systems. A utility must tailor its carbon reduction plan to align with its capabilities, market, and location. This Voices of Experience delves into the unique regulatory environment, electricity market, and geographical dynamics to consider for carbon reduction strategies. The U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring a series of discussions—both in person and online to explore this timely topic. Join one—or all—of these free discussions: 

Events

All utility personnel are invited to attend the Voice of Experience workshops and virtual discussions. 

Cost Implications and Rate Impacts of Utility Decarbonization

May 1, 2024, 12:00 - 4:00 PM (Lunch will be provided)

Loews Coronado Bay Resort, San Diego, California

This workshop will offer a platform for interactive, utility-led group discussions around topics such as rate analysis, communicating cost impacts, considerations for low-income customers, and the cost of the last 20% as it relates to decarbonization strategies and grid planning. The workshop is open to all utility personnel at no charge. Registration is required.

Register now for the May 1st workshop!   WORKSHOP REGISTRATION

Series Kickoff Workshop

February 26, 2024, Orlando, Florida

The U.S. Department of Energy hosted the first workshop in the Voices of Experience | Decarbonization Strategies and Grid Planning series on February 26, 2024, in Orlando, Florida, co-located with DistribuTECH. The goal was to provide an opportunity for the 70+ participants representing some 34 electric utilities to discuss their insights and challenges, and to learn from each other as they plan for a decarbonized energy future.  Information from this workshop is used by the DOE team to develop topics for future discussion in this series. 

Key Takeaways

  1. The combined impacts of widespread electrification, the growing market for customer-owned generation and storage, and a trend pointing towards exponential growth in data centers, are making load forecasting increasingly complex.  
  2. A broad range of technology options is necessary and preferable to relying on a single (or a few) technologies, especially as utilities get closer to their decarbonization goals and face evolving conditions and tightening constraints.
  3. Fast, good or cheap — pick two.” Is a business adage that is also known as the iron triangle. Electric utilities may soon be facing their own iron triangle of affordable, reliable, or clean, and must be able to discuss costs and rate impacts with stakeholders.
  4. The interplay between market dynamics and regulatory frameworks is complex and especially challenging for utilities with service territories spanning multiple states. Vertically integrated utilities that control the entire service chain from generation to distribution often find decarbonization more manageable due to direct oversight of their generation resources.
  5. Behind-the-meter resources are being considered and piloted by utilities; however, aggregating customer resources and relying on controls, dispatch, and interoperability is complex. Virtual power plants need more research and pilots to understand how they can be deployed at scale.

Related Grid Talk Podcasts:

 

The Voices of Experience Series

A Stakeholder’s Guide to Electrification

 

Calls to “electrify everything” are increasing in the electric power industry to achieve a carbon-free future. It requires shifting non-electric sources to electricity at the point of consumption across transportation, buildings, and industry. However, few understand the distribution system impacts or the technology, policies, and investments to enable widespread electrification. Given the urgency to decarbonize, this is a pressing challenge facing the industry today.   

Go to A Stakeholder’s Guide to Electrification.

A System in Transition: The Influence of Next Generation Technologies

The U.S. electric distribution system is in transition. To maintain forward momentum, regulators are evaluating a new class of “next-generation technologies” proposed by utilities. These innovations are not one-for-one replacements of aging infrastructure. Technological advancements and evolving societal and customer preferences drive changes that raise more complex questions for regulators. 

An EV Future: Navigating the Transition

The wave of transportation electrification is on the horizon. With millions of electric vehicles (EVs) taking to U.S. roads in the coming decade, that wave may seem like a tsunami. Merging the transportation and electricity sectors could fundamentally transform how customers fuel vehicles and transport goods. EVs offer many benefits, but the road ahead will have twists and turns. The report documents stakeholder perspectives on the transition.

Microgrids for Resiliency

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Ensuring resilience from utility disruptions while sustaining mission-critical operations is a main focus for utilities, policy makers, regulators, and community leaders. While some utilities own and operate microgrids to ensure supply, customers such as the U.S. Department of Defense and corporate data centers also do so to prevent or mitigate the effects of power disruptions. Owners could benefit from increased dialogue about the challenges and insights that microgrids provide to utilities and customers. 

Microgrid Compendium: Microgrid Controller Performance Specifications

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Microgrid controllers optimize, manage, and control distributed energy resources in the microgrid boundary and within the larger grid. This document from Southern Company includes use cases and functionalities for microgrid controllers and outlines how to operate them to meet diverse needs. 

Artificial Intelligence

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Artificial Intelligence AI) is gaining traction in the electric power industry. Utilities are discovering its potential across the utility value chain including customer operations, smart grid, outage and asset management, supply chain and market operations. However, AI also poses challenges—at least in the near term. This Voices of Experience helps utilities understand AI’s benefits and challenges.

AMI in Review: Informing the Conversation

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Numerous utilities have received approval for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) proposals; however, there have also been noteworthy denials. To help utilities and industry stakeholders understand AMI’s transformative potential without offering an opinion on state actions, DOE investigated regulatory applications from various parties. The resulting report captures the findings from an analysis of public records and conversations with more than 120 U.S. utilities representatives, advocates, and commissions. 

Compendium for AMI in Review

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For the analysis of regulatory filings, OE developed a database with more than 250 proceedings related to AMI deployment, cost recovery, commission rulemakings, smart grid reports, and other topics. This includes a review of 640 documents and is organized alphabetically by state. It provides links to significant documents from each proceeding, along with the relevant page numbers and the testimony presented. 

Leveraging AMI Networks and Data

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The original business cases for AMI implementation focused on the cost savings from avoided truck rolls and manual meter readings. Since smart meters hit the industry, utilities are learning that AMI’s value goes far beyond logging energy usage. Advanced meters are end-point sensors with granular information on system operations, which enables utilities to operate more efficiently and to provide opportunities for new customer interactions. This report documents how engineers, data analysts, product developers, and customer service representatives, are using the data to make data-driven decisions.

July 11, 2019—Smart Electric Power Alliance blogs: "Beyond Billing: Unlocking Value with AMI"  

Download technology briefs:

Integrating Intermittent Resources

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From Hawaii to New York, utilities have prepared their systems for a growing penetration of customer-sited generation. They test and adopt new technology to provide more visibility and control; collect and interpret data to plan, forecast and model their future systems; and focus on their customers. The report documents what utilities did with these new resources, assessed hosting capacity, tested advanced inverters, and engaged their customers. 

Advanced Distribution Management Systems

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Today, many utilities implement advanced distribution management systems (ADMS), software that integrates numerous utility systems and provides automated outage restoration and distribution grid performance. In effect, ADMS help transition utilities from paperwork, manual processes, and siloed software to systems with real-time and near-real-time data, automated processes, and integrated systems. The report provides practical advice for deploying ADMS, including insights on making the business case, defining requirements, selecting a vendor, preparing the data, integrating systems, and governing the project. 

Smart Grid Customer Engagement

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The electrical grid’s success depends on consumers being proactive in managing energy use. The report compiles practical advice on utilities’ successful approaches to engage customers on advanced grid technology deployments. It also includes insights and examples of the vision and guiding principles for developing a customer-centric engagement plan and a budget. 

Voices of Experience is an initiative of the Office of Electricity.