The shift to a decarbonized grid may seem clunky and uncertain at the moment, but it will sort itself out over the next decade, a senior executive with U.S. electricity giant NextEra said earlier this month.
“In the short-term, it can feel like a slog” to integrate new technology, said Mark Ahlstrom, vice president of renewable energy policy at NextEra Energy Resources, part of a bigger company that briefly overtook ExxonMobil last fall as the biggest U.S. energy company.
But within the decade, he told a webinar hosted by the U.S. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, “I’m convinced we’ll…see the arc of a wonderful transformation towards a cleaner power grid for society.”
U.S. grid operators have been concerned about the reliability of bulk power systems (BPS), particularly in the face of extreme weather, as renewable energy and storage become more prominent in utilities’ electricity mix, Utility Dive reports.
“Wind, solar, and battery resources do not provide the same inertia as traditional synchronous generation, which can make maintaining system stability a challenge in times of grid stress,” the industry publication writes, citing a Reliability Risk Priorities report presented last August to the board of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). “Better system forecasting and new inverter technologies can help address that challenge.”
Ahlstrom, a member of a NERC reliability steering committee who wrote the section of the report dealing with grid transformation, said the shift to distributed energy resources and storage “could lead to inaccurate forecasting of anticipated net demand”. He added that NERC and the six regional bodies responsible for grid reliability should be staying on top of the introduction of new inverter-based technologies that will play an important part in the renewable grid.
“With future adoption of technical guidelines and equipment standards, and soon with selective deployment of emerging grid-forming inverter technology when needed, inverter-based resources will make important contributions to BPS reliability during grid transformation,” the reliability report stated.
Utility Dive says Ahlstrom acknowledged that “system co-dependency with natural gas is a big issue, particularly following recent events,” a reference to grid reliability issues in Texas after a fierce winter storm that left more than 700 dead. “Diversity is good,” Ahlstrom said, referring to the balance among renewable power sources and between renewables and traditional generation.
Sheila Tandon Manz, director of decarbonization planning at GE Energy Consulting, said clean grid solutions go beyond the choice of supply sources. “Bringing in the demand side is the next frontier,” she told the webinar, partly because the rise of renewables is “pushing the limits of our systems.”