Each year since 2006, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has been publishing reports examining demand response and advanced metering in the United States. According to the latest report (published in December 2014), demand response is when electricity usage changes from the norm for demand-side resources. This can be due to:
- Incentive payments offered to encourage more electricity use in times of low wholesale market prices or when the reliability of the system is threatened
- Changes in electricity pricing over time
Advanced metering, according to the 2014 report, is a system that records users’ electricity consumption each hour and transmits measurements over a communication grid to a common collection point at least once a day. These systems provide data for both energy companies and consumers, often to support accurate billing and provide usage insights. An advanced meter can also deliver instantaneous readings by using two-way recording and transmission functions.
Since 2009, the government and many electric utility companies have been working together to increase the number of advanced meters running throughout the nation. This is one piece of a larger effort to modernize the electric grid. When advanced meters are used, the result can be enhanced operational efficiency, asset utilization and reliability. Advanced metering systems offer the following helpful applications:
- Monitoring of voltage
- Recognition and notification of tampering
- Activation of time-based rates
- Integration of individual energy systems through net metering
- Detection and communication of outages
Many utilities are instituting advanced metering projects to help encouraging consumers to better understand their electricity use. In addition, some utilities are examining timing and extent of changes during peak energy usage intervals via time-based rate plans. Through these plans, customer systems and advanced metering, the following benefits can be realized:
- Better use of capital assets
- Minimized generation of electricity and impact on the environment
- Reduced capital expenditures
- Additional consumer options for electricity use and cost management
The use of advanced metering systems continues to rise, as 2012 saw almost a 4-percent increase in penetration rate from 2011, according to data from the Energy Administration Information. Several organizations in the utilities industry project the numbers will continue to increase, as these systems offer easier use, real-time data, and the information needed to help consumers reduce electricity costs and energy usage.
To help the United States better manage projected energy needs, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2013 “Grid Energy Storage” report suggests the electric system should be adjusted for efficiency. One such change is increasing the use of renewable energy sources and improving non-renewable processes. Another option is updating energy storage to ensure consistent and lasting delivery of electricity.
An advanced energy storage system can provide the following benefits:
- Lower costs
- Decreased infrastructure investments
- Higher dependability
- Grid stabilization services
- Enhanced grid operation abilities
- Backup power capabilities for emergencies
A quality storage plan should include a combination of technologies to meet the needs of different types of applications, such as load leveling, voltage maintenance, energy management, and grid balance. By making use of advanced storage, the electricity system can be expanded at a faster rate, but at similar costs to other technologies. Unfortunately, grid storage doesn’t have mature industrial standards, so to expand installed storage, certain goals should be set:
- Storage deployment should increase renewable energy infiltration in the market.
- Industry professionals looking to solve problems with reliability and resiliency should have advanced energy storage as an option.
- As a contributor to a smarter grid, energy storage should support consistent deployment of electric transportation and application of demand-side assets.
The DOE plays an important part in reaching these goals and getting widespread deployment of energy storage. It is working on uncovering options to improve and promote advanced storage solutions within the next few years. Key components of the strategy include:
- Making energy storage technology pricing more competitive by examining current processes and researching new, higher-performance solutions.
- Creating confidence in dependability and safety of installed storage systems by using testing programs and protocols, followed by tracking and reporting of performance.
- Reducing regulatory and institutional obstacles for grid storage to those of other kinds of grid resources by creating standards for integration, performance evaluation, siting, and procurement.
- Increasing industry acceptance of energy storage by instituting collaborative field trials and adjusting already accepted industry operational and management tools to support grid storage.
While support for energy storage growth has increased in recent years, it is still an important issue and should continue developing in the near future. With action by the DOE, more grid storage projects will be deployed, renewable sources will be integrated, and projected energy needs will be better managed.