By Kiran Kumaraswamy, ICF International
The following is the executive summary and first few paragraphs from a five-page white paper from ICF International.
The rapid growth of distributed energy resources (DER), a non-transmission alternative, is raising concerns over the viability and necessity of new transmission lines. ICF International’s review and analysis of case studies concludes that targeted DER programs will reduce the need for transmission and distribution (T&D) investments in certain areas. Carefully tailored programs can match DER generation with central station resources in a way that reduces new transmission requirements. When DER growth is unorganized (most is today), it does not provide adequate reliability benefits given the changing generation landscape. In light of a significantly changing generation profile due to projected coal unit retirements, additional renewables, and high levels of gas generation, new transmission lines provide an adequate level of flexibility to the system to transfer power from generation to load centers. Aging infrastructure in several regions across the country combined with potential system contingencies also necessitate new transmission lines to be built. Finally, commissions and utilities need to consider regional issues related to electric system contingencies while evaluating transmission needs in the face of growing DER.
Benefits of Transmission
Since the beginning of time, utilities, commissions, and investors have applied the same formula to evaluate the need for new transmission. Transmission lines have longstanding defined benefits. Some of the key benefits offered by transmission lines include providing system redundancy during periods of contingencies (loss of large generation or transmission facilities), enabling development of economic generation options, and increasing optionality on the power supply side. Recent extreme weather events have caused significant damage to the electrical infrastructure across the United States and have resulted in outages for a large number of customers. These events underline the benefit of a resilient transmission and distribution system. Although DER could provide for certain benefit categories like improved system resiliency, certain factors should be considered such as the flexibility of accommodating new resources where traditional transmission scores better in comparison.
Read the full white paper from ICF International here:
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