Utilities Engaging Customers In Sustainability

Does Distributed Generation Weaken Grid Security?

Maintaining power grid security is a major challenge facing utilities as distributed power generation continues to gain popularity and becomes more technically feasible. Big centralized utilities are morphing into much more distributed systems with many disparate grid connections needed to accommodate a growing number of wind farms and solar installations at both commercial and residential scale.

Monitoring and regulating the increasing number of grid access points to ensure distributed generation sources do not threaten grid reliability or security is seen as a challenge and opportunity.

green employees

image via One Change

“The next mega-billionaire will come from finding a solution to this problem,” said Balzar.

Ball agreed, and also pointed out the need for energy storage advancements, saying that as utilities move from a centralized model to a decentralized power generation and distribution approach, there remains no simple and efficient way to store alternating current – a 200-year old problem.

Differing Views of Potential Privacy Issues

Concerns about privacy could increase alongside the massive data flows generated by “smart” technologies and tighter utility/customer relationships. Balzar thinks privacy concerns could be limited because there is no need to tie a name and address to a usage pattern, as the usage pattern is what’s important from a utility’s perspective.

One potential issue is the desire to obtain more detailed consumption data from commercial properties, which are substantial energy consumers. There is currently no national system to capture this data, and Dr. Marilyn Brown, Professor of Public Policy at Georgia Tech University and Visiting Scientist from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said a prospective database could create markets for energy efficiency, with property owners receiving higher rents from more energy efficient facilities.

Balzar agreed and pointed out that the City of Seattle in Washington State successfully launched a similar initiative.

However, privacy concerns could be potentially problematic in other regions where property owners could resist regulatory energy use reporting requirements.

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