Source: Energy Manager Today, author Emily Holbrook
According to recent research, 95% of utilities executives agree that the risk of electricity consumers going largely off the grid and only using it as occasional backup will increase significantly in the next two years.
The study from Accenture, conducted as part of the company’s Digitally Enabled Grid research program, says that the deployment of distributed generation (DG) technologies like rooftop solar is increasing faster than utilities can build new grid capacity to handle it in high-demand areas. That’s according to the vast majority (95%) of the 150 executives surveyed across 25 countries. In fact, almost half (48%) of the respondents said that parts of their grid will reach maximum capacity in three years or less, with only 1% believing it will take longer than five years.
The proportion of both residential and commercial consumers with rooftop solar photovoltaics in the markets modelled could even exceed 15% by 2036 in some markets, such as California. This trend will likely continue to affect net electricity demand growth for the foreseeable future.
The study also notes that increased deployment of DG will complicate utilities’ operations, requiring distribution utilities to act now to avoid the excessive grid-reinforcement spending required to host new DG energy flows.
Cost Savings Through Forecasts
According to Accenture modelling, some markets could generate substantial capital reinforcement cost savings simply through better identification of local constraints on the distribution network. A 10% improved accuracy in DG forecasts resulted in projected savings of 15-28% in New York, 14-18% in California, 14-15% in Australia, and 11-12% in both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
In fact, DG integration was ranked as the second-highest priority area as a cost-saving opportunity, selected by 59% of respondents as one of their top 5 choices. The top priority, chosen by 61% of respondents, was reducing supply chain unit costs through improved forecasting of materials and service requirements.
According to Accenture, while DG presents a challenge to distribution utilities, it’s also an opportunity. In fact, 95% of respondents said that DG and storage-services provision will be a major profit growth area for distribution companies beyond 2025. More than half of respondents globally also identified owning each of the following assets as an opportunity for their business going forward: large-scale DG; grid-connected storage; small-scale prosumer DG; and community storage.
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