Of the many challenges facing the nation’s aging, strained electricity grid, experts and policy makers say the need for new transmission capacity is the most pressing.
Earlier this year, the US Department of Energy said the country would need thousands of miles New lines to better connect regions to deal with extreme weather, reduce costs and add new renewable energy projects.
AND WHEREAS Congress has taken some steps to allow improvements (in) summer loan limit deal), is a group of technologies whose proponents and some state and federal regulators agree that existing transmission systems can still benefit more and potentially reduce the need for new wiring.
They are called “grid-enhancing technologies” or GETs in industry shorthand, and in many cases they are adopted elsewhere But it has been slow to take root in the United States.
“If we can’t squeeze every drop out of the existing system it’s going to be a tough sell as we consider the costs involved in transmission expansion,” said Dan Scripps, chair of Michigan’s utility commission on a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission task force. meeting last month. “And I believe that grid-enhancing technologies can help us maximize the value from the infrastructure we have today.”
What are GETs?
Grid-enhancing techniques include a different types of equipment Maximizing the capacity of the grid to handle the flow of electricity. They include sensors, power-flow devices, software and hardware that can better deliver real-time weather data and other technologies such as topology optimization, which can identify the best grid configuration and optimize power flow around bottlenecks. can route. Think of the electrical grid as a road system and grid-enhancing technologies as traffic control devices and variable speed limits that can help ease congestion, a Energy Department paper says,
And congestion on the country’s electrical grid is a real problem. Broadly defined, congestion in the context of electricity means that at any given time physical constraints on the electricity system prevent the cheapest electricity from reaching customers, which naturally increases costs.
“For example, the flow of electricity may be restricted by the maximum thermal limits of a transformer or power line conductor,” says the Department of Energy. “Therefore, operators have to reroute power through less optimal paths and rely on more expensive power generation, such as traditional fossil fuels, while cutting back on renewable wind or solar power to safely meet their customers’ demand.” is forced to.”
a report A report released in July by Grid Strategies, a consulting firm working to integrate renewable energy into the electric grid, found that congestion costs could rise to $12.1 billion in 2022 (after doubling between 2020 and 2021) which is an increase of 56% from 2021. The country is controlled by six large regional transmission organizations. Extrapolating that increase to the rest of the US, the firm estimated that the total cost of congestion to electricity customers in 2022 was about $21 billion.
“The best way to reduce transmission congestion is to increase transmission capacity. However, a very small portion of transmission spending is on new large-scale, high-voltage transmission lines,” wrote Grid Strategies. “In addition, some US utilities have adopted dynamic line rating, advanced power flow control or topology optimization (known as Grid Enhancing Technologies, or GET) to make more efficient use of existing grid infrastructure.”
Why has the adoption of GETs been delayed?
there was broad agreement seventh meeting last month FERC’s Joint Federal-State Task Force on Electric Transmission says GET could provide huge cost and reliability benefits for grid operators and electric customers.
“Perhaps the most compelling case for these technologies to me right now is that they can reduce grid congestion allowing our markets to access consistent low-cost electricity and respond to real-time reliability issues. And it’s especially important when we’re dealing with extreme weather events,” said Andrew French, a member of the Kansas Corporations Commission who serves on the task force.
So why aren’t these types of technologies more prevalent in the United States?
Grid experts say the biggest reason is how utilities make money for grid upgrades and how their performance is measured.
“Utilities are not directly affected financially by inefficient use of transmission infrastructure,” said California Utilities Commissioner Darcy Hawke, who also serves on the task force. He said utilities often pass the cost of congestion onto power generators and customers. “Utilities are financially motivated to build more capital-intensive transmission projects to increase their rate base on which they earn returns. … GETs may postpone or deny the need for capital projects that could reduce utility revenue.
Part of the reluctance also stems from the need for grid operators to “validate technologies on their own systems because there are no publicly available references on performance, integration and deployment,” according to the Idaho National Laboratory. wrote a report Last year.
Andrew Phillips, vice president of transmission and distribution at the Electric Power Research Institute, said during a FERC task force meeting that hesitancy is stemming from a lack of industry standards and specifications for some technologies, as well as potential safety concerns.
“When a new technology hits the market, we need an exclusivity to buy. We have to be sure that it will last for 30 or 40 years. And that’s a really important thing and often a hindrance,” said Phillips. EPRI, a research and development nonprofit, has developed tests for some technologies like advanced conductors and is working on standards for others. Still working.
“We need an industry-accepted way to evaluate these technologies, incorporate them into our plans, and then execute those plans.”
Still, despite past resistance, some see a changing outlook among utilities.
“Ratepayers will not pay for twice the grid than we have today, so they will have to look at other solutions,” said Julia Selker, chief operating officer of Grid Strategies, as well as executive director of the Watt Coalition. Pushing for wider adoption of GETs. “I see a change in mindset.”
A push from FERC and the states
FERC has taken recent steps to get the most out of existing transmission systems and to consider new technologies.
In 2021, FERC issued a final rule Transmission providers are required to use “ambient-adjusted ratings” for transmission lines that take into account actual air temperatures and other weather conditions, rather than limiting line capacity based on conservative, worst-case assumptions. Keeps
The order also opened the door for transmission owners to figure out “dynamic line ratings”, a more real-time rating that can account for other factors that can increase line capacity, such as wind speed, cloud cover and other conditions.
This summer, PPL Electric, which has about 1.4 million customers in eastern and central Pennsylvania, won an industry award For being the first US electric company to install and integrate a dynamic line rating system within its transmission management and market operations. This technology will save customers an estimated $23 million per year in congestion costs, the company says. A report for 2021 Commissioned by the WATT Coalition, it argues that deploying GETs nationwide would save more than $5 billion per year in energy costs, compared with an upfront investment of $2.7 billion in the first year.
In July, as part of your effort To help clear the backlog of new power projects seeking to connect to the grid, FERC also required transmission providers to consider grid-enhancing technologies in their interconnection studies. and another proposed rule could be also need His idea in transmission scheme.
“GET is about long-term planning,” Selkar said. “If you are not considering GET then you are not making the most efficient decisions for customers.”
But there has been some reluctance among FERC commissioners to mandate any specific technology.
“We really need to listen to the engineers on this,” said Commissioner Mark Christie, Virginia’s former utility regulator. “If you get it right, there will be tremendous benefits. There is no use if you don’t do it.”
In a concurrence filed on the new interconnection rule, Christie acknowledged transmission owners’ vested interest in building “expensive new transmission assets” rather than potentially less expensive technologies that could achieve more than existing lines. But he also said there is “very high rent-seeking” by the companies selling grid-enhancing technologies and the organizations they fund, who profit from any regulation mandating their use.
“Striking the right balance — one that is in the public interest — is a challenge,” Christie said.
But the states also have a role to play in this. Selkar said that in many states, including utility regulators Michigan, Nevada And North Carolina, has asked its companies to report on their pursuit of federal funding for grid upgrades. about $14 billion in Federal funding available to states, tribes and utilities over the next several years for grid-enhancing technologies and other upgrades.
Caitlin Marquis, managing director of Advanced Energy United, a trade group of clean energy companies, called FERC’s requirement that GET be considered a small first step in interconnection.
“These technologies need to be evaluated, reporting is required, but a lot is left to the discretion of transmission providers. …It remains to be seen whether GET usage will increase as a result,” he said. “GET is certainly an area where states have an interest and states can certainly play a bigger role in ensuring that they are considered.”
Several state regulators on the FERC task force took a similar approach.
“We need to squeeze every bit of value out of our existing systems for the benefit of our ratepayers,” said North Carolina Utilities Commissioner Kimberly Duffley. “One thing state commissions can do is to evaluate their existing rules to ensure that they are creating conditions for consideration of GETs where appropriate.”
Marissa Gillette, chair of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, said it’s up to state and federal regulators to push utilities to consider “non-wired” grid solutions, adding “a healthy disincentive with potential incentives.” Develop shared savings and other programs for
“Our ratepayers need us as regulators to define the rules of the road and insist on a full accounting of an existing one, whether at the state or federal level.” [utility] Lands on a capital intensive solution,” he said. “I think we need to go beyond simple instructions that GET should be considered.”
Utility decisions on what to build are not made solely on the basis of engineering merits, he added.
“We must all trust, verify and if necessary encourage and enforce,” he added.