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Utilities need to get ready for DG, Crisson says

From the March 12, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published March 12, 2014

By Jeannine Anderson

As rooftop solar panels have become more popular and more prevalent, some investor-owned utilities have encountered operational challenges and other problems caused by the increasing amounts of distributed generation, APPA President and CEO Mark Crisson said March 11. He spoke at a press briefing in Washington, D.C., during the association's 2014 Legislative Rally.

Public power utilities need to anticipate these kinds of issues with distributed generation, Crisson said. A resolution on DG that was approved by APPA's Legislative and Resolutions Committee is meant as an early warning for public power utilities to anticipate the likely advent of rooftop solar and other distributed resources in their service areas, he said.

When rooftop solar units become numerous, a utility may experience technical problems, such as power flows going in the wrong direction, he said. Another question that has arisen is whether those who use rooftop solar units are paying their fair share of costs for building and maintaining the electric grid.

APPA's Legislative and Resolutions Committee approved nine policy resolutions earlier this week. (See the March 12 Public Power Daily.) Among them was Resolution 14-02: "In Support of Distributed Generation Policies that Allow for Local Decision-making and Equitable Rates Among Customers," which says the amount of distributed generation, particularly solar power, has increased significantly in the last five years.

As of 2011, 4 gigawatts of distributed capacity has been installed in the United States, and that is expected to rise to about 9 GW by 2020, the resolution says. Solar and other distributed energy technologies can provide benefits, but also can present challenges such as increased congestion on distribution system feeder lines, the resolution notes.

Utilities "will have to make additional investments in technology, training and staff time to accommodate these operational challenges," the document says.

As to how the costs of the grid should be allocated, the resolution says APPA believes distributed generation customer compensation policies "must be designed to reflect utility costs and benefits, and to assure that all those who benefit from the grid or provide benefits to the grid are sharing fairly in the cost of building and maintaining it."



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