In the US, the District of Columbia’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has opened a formal case to explore the modification of the state’s energy distribution system and evaluate the impact of distributed generation and microgrids on grid infrastructure.
The formal docket was opened in June, for which the PSC is now soliciting comments with the end result being a collaborative approach to implementing distribution system modifications.
In October 2015, the PSC will set out a preliminary overview of the current distribution system, and discuss the future plans of the commission’s investigation into distributed generation and microgrid deployment.
The primary objective for the PSC is to maintain grid safety, reliability, and cost-effective standards, according to a statement.
According to global law firm Sullivan & Worcester, the District of Columbia experiences the same challenges that other US states do, in terms of lack of vacant land to develop large scale power projects.
The firm adds that cities are opting to modernise and upgrade generation to cleaner resources – distributed generation – in the form of residential and commercial rooftop solar, combined heat and power systems (CHP) and demand-side energy efficiency upgrades.
The PSC highlighted several concerns regarding the integration of distributed generation and mini-grids.
The PSC's concerns revolve around the potential impact that distributed generation and microgrids may have on the safety and reliability of the existing grid system.
The Commission is cautious about how distribution lines can become overwhelmed by an influx of generation, and the redundancy of its transmission and distribution lines for transport of electricity.
Sullivan & Worcester suggests that instead, “localized distribution may be the answer to increase the efficiency of electricity production and consumption.”
Privately owned microgrids particularly may pose a challenge, as the utility owns the entire fixed wire network. In addition the utility is the highest authority with regard to making decisions as to what assets are able to come online without a regulatory or legislative mandate.
The law firm suggests that the docket by PSC will may seek to address the challenges that could stifle implementation.
The PSC is reported to following New York’s 'Reforming the Energy Vision' docket that is revamping incumbent utilities as “platforms for distributed technologies,” as a possible guideline to deployment.