Since 2014, renewable generation has become the largest new generation source added to the grid annually and is increasingly becoming the lowest cost. Running the grid on variable generation is going to require new policies and solutions.
The challenge and opportunity
Wind and solar electricity generation is variable, in that the amount of electricity the systems generate depend upon the amount of available wind or sun. However, grid operators have designed all of their processes to use firm, dispatchable generation resources that are available upon demand. While many studies have shown that the electricity grid can continue to operate reliably with a very high percentage of electricity coming from renewable energy, almost none of those studies have identified the regulatory changes required to determine how to best incorporate an increasing amount of variable generation, while not violating and NERC reliability requirements.
Additionally, consumers are installing distributed generation much faster than predicted, creating new paradigms for regulators, grid operators and utilities. Energy storage is widely recognized as a "game changer," and costs are declining much faster than expected, largely driven by advances in the automotive sector.
At the same time, electricity generation and distribution is one of the most regulated sectors in the United States. The process to change regulations is designed to be thoughtful and transparent, and it frequently takes years to debate new rules.
CRI's mission is to inform and support the process of developing new regulations that will enable renewable energy, both bulk-connected and distributed, to make up a very high percentage of the electricity generation mix, while maintaining reliability and minimizing cost impact. Additionally, we focus on the effective deployment and use of energy storage, which requires rethinking the historic divide between transmission and distribution versus generation assets. Finally, we are working to facilitate the adoption of new standards, such as IEEE 1547, that will greatly impact the value that distributed generation can provide to the electricity grid.