Environmental consciousness and new technologies are causing revolutionary changes in the world’s electric power grid. Edison experts recently joined hundreds of other representatives of the energy industry in Silicon Valley to share insights on how the grid of the future might function.
In the not-too-distant future, for example, during a heat wave, the energy generated by private rooftop solar combined with battery storage could be a powerful source of clean energy to meet heavy electricity demand created by widespread use of air conditioners.
“The challenge is to leverage new technologies to meet customers’ expectations of reliability,” said Russ Ragsdale, Southern California Edison principal manager of Grid Modernization and a panelist at the Grid Edge World Forum in San Jose. “The key is, when unforeseen events happen, can new technologies like solar and battery storage still provide the same reliability that traditional resources would have?”
Rooftop solar and battery storage are not new themselves. But the technology that makes it possible for these resources to communicate with and respond to signals from the grid is groundbreaking, allowing even electric cars to become what experts refer to as “distributed energy resources.”
Electric cars plugged in during the day, for example, could be interconnected to provide a reservoir of stored energy that could be drawn upon to meet the needs of the electric power grid while the drivers are at work.
Lisa Cagnolatti, vice president of SCE’s Business Customer Division, highlighted one such pilot project that SCE is working on with the U.S. Department of Defense.
“The vehicle-to-grid pilot at L.A. Air Force Base is exciting because it’s helping us prove that two-way charging works and can support and serve the electric power grid,” she said.
“We actually helped the vehicle and charging station manufacturers develop and test bi-directional charging technology at SCE’s Electric Vehicle Testing Center in Pomona,” Cagnolatti added. “This is very different from what these vehicles and charging stations were designed to do.”
A challenge for those in the energy industry is helping energy customers understand how their lives — and businesses — can benefit from grid modernization as it is taking place.
“The complexity of grid operations is increasing, and customers have to respond to a tremendous number of options,” said panelist Allan Schurr, president of Edison Energy, an Edison International company that helps large energy users access the full value available in the quickly changing energy marketplace.
“Our business is trying to help them understand what's coming, when the windows of opportunity close and to make sure they're taking advantage of every opportunity,” Schurr added.
Rapid changes mean that electric power companies themselves must strive to stay ahead of the curve. SCE principal advisor John Bubb currently heads a national industry working group formed to help industry members navigate the new world of grid modernization.
During a Grid Edge roundtable session, Bubb said the purpose of the working group is to first bring like-minded utilities together as a starting point and then expand the conversation industry-wide.
“As we get our bearings on what the needs are, then we want to bring other stakeholders from the industry into the conversation,” Bubb added. “One of the key deliverables we’re looking for is a set of business requirements that can help unify the direction of the industry.”