Micatu-ZPryme survey: Utilities ready for renewables, maybe unready for challenges they bring

Disruption may be the buzz word for the electric power industry these days, but dissonance also comes to mind. new survey of leaders at more than 100 utilities found that while many are already on the path to a renewables revolution and integration, they also are not necessarily accounting for the changes those shifts require. The survey was conducted by optical sensing technology firm Micatu and research provider ZPryme.

Nearly half of those responding said their utilities have already integrated renewable energy resources, and that number will go up to 90 percent in the next five years.

At the same time, many are not certain how to deal with the bi-directional and reliability challenges that intermittent energy resources bring. Power quality is a top challenge for 64 percent of those utilities, but nearly a fifth of the respondents have no plans to address real-time power quality data despite this high priority, according to the Micatu-ZPryme survey.

Backfeed of distributed energy resources —such as rooftop solar moving excess generation back into the grid—is also a challenge for nearly half of utilities. Yet 82 percent say they do not currently monitor this issue.

Renewables integration challenges will be key at POWERGEN International. Call for Speakers now open

“This survey makes it clear that traditional methods of measurement and management just won’t cut it if we want to prevent large-scale disruption and have sustainable and balanced grids,” said Micatu CEO Michael Oshetski. “Renewable integration is causing a grid crisis now.”

Power quality is problematic in handling, but 64 percent of respondents said it’s a key problem as more renewables are added onto the grid, the survey shows. Backfeed was second at 48 percent, while voltage surges, voltage sag and customer experience all resonated with at least 40 percent of the utility leaders who participated.

Only a third expressed concerns about security and data accuracy.

The biggest single concern around power quality was voltage sags, while harmonics, surges and data figured prominently among the utility respondents. On how our utilities leverage data for accurate grid measurement, most said it was collected around reliability analysis, fault location and power flow data points.

Micatu builds optical sensing solutions geared toward utilities seeking greater control over grid measurement. The company participated in “A Grid Disrupted” webinar earlier this year which included Oshetski and Build Edison CEO Kristin Barbato. The webinar is still available on demand.

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