Last month, New York’s investor-owned utilities reported their latest progress, and future plans, for meeting the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative — the broad effort to remake state energy and utility regulations to bring distributed renewable energy into the mainstream.
These new Distributed System Integration Plans, or DSIPs, revealed a lot of information about where utilities stand on creating the grid, IT and customer systems needed to measure and manage distributed energy resources at scale, and where they’re headed in the coming years. These include updates on grid modernization initiatives like advanced metering infrastructure and distributed energy resource management systems, as well as the non-wires alternatives that are replacing grid upgrades with distributed energy resources, which is a topic that our research team will be delving into in more detail in the coming week.
The DSIPs filed with the New York Public Service Commission also lay out the latest work on the REV demonstration projects that utilities are rolling out, from online customer marketplaces for efficiency services, to fully integrated smart communities backed by energy storage and grid automation. There’s a lot of data on how long-running projects are shaping up, as well as a few newly launched projects worth highlighting.
Here’s a summary of the key developments in REV demo projects by utility.
New York City utility Con Edison is running the largest number of REV demonstration projects, with at least 16 outlined in its DSIP. Some have been running long enough to show real-world results. Con Ed’s Building Efficiency Marketplace, for example, has racked up more than 1 million views and 600,000 unique visits, and sold more than 113,000 LED light bulbs and about 8,000 smart thermostats, which are expected to generate an estimated 72 gigawatt-hours of lifetime energy savings. Last month, Con Ed started offering side-by-side cost and value comparisons for electric vehicles online as well.
Long before New York set its statewide energy storage mandate, Con Ed has been demonstrating grid batteries in a number of interesting formations. Con Ed’s front-of-meter deployments include the commercial battery storage project it’s doing with Smarter Grid Solutions and GI Energy, and its first utility-owned battery system installed as part of its Brooklyn-Queens Demand Management non-wires alternative project.
On the behind-the-meter front, Con Ed is restarting the virtual power plant project it had planned with SunPower and Sunverge back in 2015, only to see it derailed by objections from New York City fire officials about the risks of lithium-ion batteries inside buildings. “Con Edison placed the project on hold in early 2017 due to permitting challenges, but is now proceeding with the development of an implementation plan,” according to its DSIP.
Con Ed is also making a big push into mobile energy storage — batteries and associated power supply and safety equipment that can be packaged into trailers and moved from site to site according to its needs. The first test of this concept is its “storage on demand” project. The project is made up of two truck trailers packed with 1 megawatt/4 megawatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries that can be located at different substations during different seasons or years, to serve as “transmission and distribution capital investment deferral, low voltage support, and temporary load needs in multiple locations.”
The second project, dubbed the Transportable Energy Storage System (TESS), will package lithium-ion batteries, power conversion systems and thermal control systems into a 500-kilowatt/800-kilowatt-hour trailer-mounted system that “would potentially take the place of mobile diesel systems” for use in emergencies. While not in use, the TESS could provide services to the wholesale market while stationed at a Con Ed facility in Astoria — a use that’s technically feasible, but will require regulatory changes to become a common business practice.
On the community solar front, Con Ed’s Shared Solar Pilot Program won approval last year to procure about 3 megawatts of solar panels on utility rooftops, and allocate the credits generated from local solar projects to about 1,000 low-income residential customers. Another project now in development has picked three projects out of 33 submitted to assist low-income customers in accessing clean energy and controlling costs, and expects to file final drafts in the third quarter of this year.
Con Ed is also gearing up a number of variable pricing pilot projects to test how different rates can help the state achieve its DER integration and valuation goals. Con Ed’s advanced metering infrastructure rollout, begun last year, is driving its Innovative Pricing Pilot, which was filed with regulators last month, and would target smart-metered residential and small commercial customers in Westchester County, Staten Island and Brooklyn.
The next stage in Con Ed’s rate experiments is its Smart Home Rate demonstration project, which was approved by Public Service Commission staff last month. The goal of these rates is to give customers exposure to both generation and transmission and distribution capacity costs, and will come in two flavors: Rate A, "a daily demand charge with peak event demand charges," and Rate B, which "will combine a monthly demand subscription charge with peak event overage penalties."
To allow customers the tools to adjust their energy usage and avoid being hit with excessive bills, Con Ed has picked partners to provide home automation technologies to participating customers, and to collect and analyze the data that results. The project will also “assess the impacts of battery storage as an enabling technology specifically for customers with existing solar DG systems.”
As for electric-vehicle demonstrations, they’ve been kicked into high gear by the state’s new EV mandate. Beyond its SmartCharge incentive program and offering EV data on its online marketplace, Con Ed is working with the Electric Power Research Institute on an Open Vehicle Grid Integration Platform, meant to connect EVs, chargers and utilities into a single, secure data platform. It’s launched a vehicle-to-grid project to use electric school buses as grid resources when they’re not picking up or dropping off students.
Con Ed’s DSIP mentions two other EV demonstrations being developed. The NYC Curbside Charging project is one. That program would install 100 public and 25 city fleet Level 2 charging units at locations throughout the city. There's also the Quick Charging pilot, which involves “working with charging partners to assess the installation of quick charging stations to catalyze initial investment in infrastructure that enables more EV adoption and test various aspects of quick charging, including utilization, operations, economics, and customer acceptance.”
Orange & Rockland
Orange & Rockland is owned by Consolidated Edison, and shares many of Con Ed’s efforts on grid modernization and DER integration. Its demonstration projects also include a customer engagement marketplace, for which the utility revealed no hard figures, and the smart home rate and innovative pricing pilots tied to its AMI deployment.
The utility is pursuing its own battery experiments through its Innovative Storage Business Model demo project, announced in February. This $5.6 million project will tap Tesla to install two separate 2-megawatt/4-megawatt-hour battery arrays. One will include up to eight commercial and industrial customer sites, and the other to be placed at one or two solar projects. Customer acquisition and site selection is expected to run through the first half of next year.
Orange & Rockland is also planning to experiment with smart inverters through its Optimal Export demo project, which received its Public Service Commission staff assessment last month, and is targeted to start in the fourth quarter of 2018. This project will test “optimization of DERs exported to the Company’s distribution system through the use of advanced control and inverter functionality." But it has yet to begin the analysis and customer engagement phase, let alone installing and operating smart inverters at the sites it eventually chooses.
Central Hudson’s customer portal, dubbed CenHub, has graduated from pilot to being funded through base rates since it was launched in April 2016, according to the utility's DSIP. Working with startup Simple Energy, CenHub had engaged 42 percent of the utility’s customers as of the end of 2017 — a significant rate of use for utility websites.
The utility is also running an Insights+ pilot, which offered CenHub users the option of paying $5 a month for a cellular-connected meter collar to get real-time data, or $2 a month if they sign up for pilot time-of-use rates. But that program seems to have fallen flat with customers, with only about 100 signing up since it was launched in summer 2017.
National Grid has launched six REV demo projects since 2016, ranging across a menu of advanced grid and DER integration functionality. Its Clifton Park Demand Reduction project is deploying advanced metering infrastructure to inform conservation voltage reduction equipment being installed, as well as testing out Peak Time Rewards and a voluntary time-of-use rate.
Its Schenectady Smart City project is equipping the city with a multipurpose telecommunications network to support advanced metering infrastructure, DER devices and intelligent LED streetlights. It’s also testing utility ownership models for community solar in its Fruit Belt Neighborhood Solar project, and it’s trying out “alternative solutions” for interconnecting larger-scale solar through its Distributed Generation Interconnection pilot.
But the utility’s most closely watched demonstration is its Distributed System Platform project in Buffalo, given that it’s the first implementation of a type of platform that eventually all the state’s utilities are expected to stand up. Working with startup Opus One Solutions and the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus, National Grid has built a system that can communicate with building energy controls, batteries, solar systems, and distribution grid controls to “determine and communicate the locational value of energy,” as measured by a "Locational Marginal Pricing + Distribution + Environmental financial model." LMP+D+E is New York REV terminology for how to measure what energy is worth to customers and utilities alike, depending on where it’s generated and consumed and its associated carbon footprint.
Avangrid, which operates New York State Electric and Gas Co. and Rochester Gas & Electric, has put most of its REV demo efforts into its Energy Smart Community project in and around Ithaca, New York. Since its launch in 2016, the ESC has installed almost all of the 12,300 electric smart meters and 7,600 smart gas meters called for in the plan. That’s supporting the real-time meter data customers can now get on the utility's Energy Manager portal, alongside its online marketplace for energy efficiency goods and services, as well as the time-varying and EV rates it’s testing.
Avangrid has also installed 97 percent of the distribution automation equipment to support the advanced distribution management system from Siemens that’s set to start site testing in the next few months. That ADMS will support conservation voltage reduction; fault location, isolation and service restoration capabilities; and will serve as the backbone of its DER monitoring and dispatch capabilities for four substations and 15 circuits in the pilot.
Avangrid is also working on more advanced forecasting capabilities to manage the rise of DERs. The utility is working with Clean Power Research’s WattPlan platform to predict customer solar adoption, and with LoadSeer, the software built by Willdan acquisition Integral Analytics, to better forecast customer energy usage patterns and changes at a more granular level. Avangrid is also working with startup Smarter Grid Solutions on a Flexible Interconnect Capacity Solution at New York State Electric & Gas aimed at creating “a new model for interconnecting [DERs] to the distribution grid using Active Network Management rather than firm capacity."