Instrumentation & Controls, News, O&M

Op-ed: Finding value for behind-the-meter tools during a massive outage

(Editor’s Note: This op-ed was written by Shuli Goodman, founder and executive director of LF Energy, as project of the Linux Foundation seeking multi-vendor collaboration on open source technologies in the energy and electricity sectors. It is written in the midst of a terrible era of natural disasters befallen parts of the world, including the United States. Wildfires, hurricanes and other weather catastrophes slammed utility service territories from California and Oregon to Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and the East Coast, and beyond the American boundary to Australia. Several of these events are costing more than $1 billion apiece to fix.)

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“Save for a few hospitals, military bases and maybe convention centers, there are very few places on the planet that are hardened for category 5 hurricanes, wildfires, and other extreme weather events.

“And utilities are no different. Unless they become more resilient, they are opening themselves up to major risks. According to a McKinsey Report, Hurricane Irene flooded 44 power plants and Hurricane Sandy damaged 69. More recently in 2017, Hurricane Harvey knocked down or damaged more than 6,200 distribution poles and 850 transmission structures, affecting millions of residents in the Houston area. Repairing these damages is extremely expensive and we have to begin thinking differently with regards to how we compose infrastructure to not lose life, limb,
and property.

“One way to think differently is through fractal/nodal composition which enables fault isolation. Given utilities are regulated entities, there needs to be a regulatory response that pushes utilities in this direction by ensuring that customer-owned resources (such as battery and PV), as well as behind-the-meter tools (like heat pumps) can be valued and orchestrated. Right now there is no financial price-based grid coordination to enable this sort of arrangement. We have the foundations of networking technologies as they are used in other industries such as telecommunications, internet, and cloud — they now need to be applied here to community and grid resilience.

“LF Energy member, Monash University is contributing this software and through its proposed Microgrid Electricity Market Operator, a third party would coordinate distributed energy resources (DER) and interface with the wholesale electricity and the ancillary services markets. DER owners would be compensated for participating in the market and providing grid services.”

  • Shuli Goodman, founder and executive director of LF Energy