While public policies influence innovation in many ways, over the years new technologies have emerged chiefly from the private sector. The same can be said for innovation in the electricity field. Rather than top-down government mandates, or utility-driven central generation developments, most innovation in electricity is about customer-sited, distributed energy solutions that empower customers. The accelerating pace at which improved technologies and new business models are emerging is bringing the transition to a low-carbon economy within reach. There are three specific areas that in combination promise to be powerful enablers for the shift to a sustainable energy future.
Across North America, utilities are facing a variety of new challenges: increasing levels of variable generation; changing load profiles due to a rapidly expanding portfolio of distributed solar generation, use of demand response (DR) and proliferation of distributed energy resources (DER); as well as declining revenues due to energy efficiency and behind-the-meter solar generation.
A smart grid model that is designed and implemented for a vertically integrated company has to undergo major changes during a restructuring that disaggregates a company’s services. The Smart Grid Model of Mexico was designed for the Comisión Federal del Electricidad (CFE), a government-owned electric utility now undergoing that process following energy sector reforms.
Advancements in integrated circuit technology have made it possible for expanded flexibility in grid devices such as advanced meters, smart switches, reclosers, capacitor controllers and voltage regulators by building them as “platforms” for applications instead of “products” with built-in, limited functionality. Utilities could gain a new degree of control and manageability over their systems, and distributed resources, such as PV smart inverters, energy storage controls and electric vehicle charging stations are also good candidates for these open application platforms.