Senior Advisor Susan Tierney Releases Report on Role of Distributed Energy Resources in Future of Power Distribution

April 06, 2016

Every year in the U.S., more solar panels are installed on rooftops, more wind turbines (even small ones) are erected, and increasingly robust power-storage solutions are offered to the public. These distributed energy resources (DERs) — smaller-scale power technologies such as photovoltaics, wind, storage, and energy-efficient installations — are not new, but their use is growing rapidly and will bring large changes to our power systems in the coming years. 

Depending on the type of DERs and how they are implemented, these technologies may provide value in many areas: to the power-generation system (by feeding excess energy back into the grid), to customers who install or otherwise allow DERs on their property (reducing their grid energy dependence or protecting them from price spikes), and to society as a whole (by lowering atmospheric emissions, as well as economic second and third effects). But less often considered is the role that these technologies may play in facilitating power distribution on the local grid.

In a new report, “The Value of DER to D,” Analysis Group Senior Advisor Susan Tierney explores and expands upon our rapidly evolving understanding of how DERs, both “behind” and “in front of” the meter, may help specifically facilitate power distribution planning and operations. “Many if not most discussions of the Value of DER tend to pull these various components into a single framework,” she writes, “even though each element is distinct.” 

Her report draws insights from initial (and ongoing) efforts by two power utilities — Con Edison in New York City and SCE in Southern California — to incorporate DERs into their distribution-system planning and problem solving. These utilities have very different distribution systems, and, naturally, they take different approaches and leverage DERs in different ways. But, among other findings, preliminary data seem to suggest that a DER's potential value to a distribution network will vary greatly depending on its location and type. The report is timely for regulators, utilities, and other stakeholders as they think about the evolving regulatory paradigms that incorporate a growing body of DERs.

Read the full report

View the summary presentation