Black & Veatch report on renewables, distributed energy, and the pace of change

This article is the introduction from a recent Black & Veatch Electric Industry Report, the entirety of which is here:

Even with the ascension of natural gas on the back of lower prices, the falling costs of renewables and energy storage mean solar and wind are becoming increasingly competitive generation options. Many believe utilities that encourage renewable and distributed energy resources (DER) adoption can stay ahead of this momentum, bringing their resources, size, and scale to transform these once-nascent technologies into reliable and profitable revenue generators.

This year’s Strategic Directions: Electric Industry Report survey underscores a paradigm shift in how utilities regard renewables. Just a few years ago, a current of uncertainty ran through the marketplace over how distributed energy resources would possibly disrupt and upend the industry. Today, after having time to digest both the impact and opportunity presented by these technologies, utilities are facing the issue head-on with a healthy dose of rationale and are able to accept that DER will have an impact, but will not necessarily redesign who they are.

The holistic integration of renewables

Global trends of decarbonization, decentralization, and electrification of energy are driving critical changes for electric utilities. Utilities are starting to understand the role that renewables can play in ensuring reliability, an undeniable driver for the industry. Survey data shows that 66 percent of respondents heavily prioritize reliability – followed by cost and environmental sustainability – when considering which types of generation to add to their systems.

With this in mind, the majority of respondents are beginning to look at renewable assets with a cautious optimism. Rather than view these resources as intermittent sources of energy that cannot be depended upon for reliable output, they believe that armed with the help of energy storage and advanced distribution platforms, they can harness this distributed supply and improve system flexibility and resilience.

To that end, respondents indicated they are investing in solar photovoltaic and wind with plans to add these sources to their systems within the next five years. Utilities are also looking to renewables to fulfill environmental requirements, with 61 percent of utilities identifying renewable energy as their biggest investment by far. In their quest to provide reliable and resilient service, utilities are also realizing the benefit of integrating distributed energy resources across areas once considered foundational, such as long-term investment strategies and replacement of aging assets.

Investing in energy storage

All this support surrounding renewables and DER has one sticking point — the ability to store that energy for use on demand. Although the maturity of energy storage technology is still in the early stages, utilities are cultivating a growing interest, with more than half of respondents (56%) viewing the use of energy storage to increase solar PV as “Very Important” or “Important.”

For the read more about and request the Black & Veatch report:

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