Distributed Energy Resources

FERC offers details on DER conference, issues related report

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has released details on a two-day technical conference scheduled for April that will examine issues related to distributed energy resources. In a related action, the agency issued a staff report on DER technical considerations for the bulk power system.

FERC on Feb. 15 voted to remove barriers to the participation of electric storage resources in the capacity, energy and ancillary services markets operated by regional transmission organizations and independent system operators.

At the same time, the commission said it would convene a technical conference on April 10-11 that will be used to gather additional information to help determine what action to take on distributed energy resource aggregation reforms proposed in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in late 2016, as well as discuss other technical considerations for the bulk power system related to DERs (Docket No. RM18-9).

Details on technical conference

FERC said that the technical conference will address two broad sets of issues related to DERs.

First, the technical conference will gather additional information to help the Commission determine what action to take on the DER aggregation reforms proposed in the NOPR. Second, the technical conference will explore issues related to the potential effects of DERs on the bulk power system.

The Commission’s notice of technical conference describes seven panels over the course of the two-day conference and lists detailed questions expected to be addressed during each panel. 

Six of the panels will be led by FERC Staff with the FERC Commissioners themselves leading a panel with state and local regulators at the April 10 session.

Day one (April 10)

On the first day of the technical conference, there will be three panels – (1) economic dispatch, pricing and settlement of DER aggregations, (2) discussion of operational implications of DER aggregation with state and local regulators and (3) participation of DERs in RTO/ISO markets.

The objective of panel one is to discuss the integration of DER aggregations into the modeling, clearing, dispatch, and settlement mechanisms of RTOs and ISOs as considered in the NOPR.

“In consideration of comments received in response to the NOPR, staff seeks additional information about how DER aggregations could locate across more than one pricing node. Staff would also like additional information about bidding parameters or other potential mechanisms needed to represent the physical and operational characteristics of DER aggregations in RTO/ISO markets,” the technical conference notice said.

Panel two provide a forum for Commissioners to discuss the NOPR’s DER aggregation proposals with state and local regulators. The discussion will provide an opportunity for state and local regulators to provide their perspectives and concerns about the operational effects that DER participation in the wholesale market could have on facilities they regulate.

With respect to the third panel, FERC noted that DERs can both sell services into the RTO/ISO markets and participate in retail compensation programs.

To ensure that that there is no duplication of compensation for the same service, in the NOPR the Commission proposed that individual DERs participating in one or more retail compensation programs, such as net metering or another RTO/ISO market participation program, will not be eligible to participate in the RTO/ISO markets as part of a DER aggregation.

The third panel will explore potential solutions to challenges associated with DER aggregations that provide multiple services, including ways to avoid duplication of compensation for their services in the RTO/ISO markets, potential ways for the RTOs/ISOs to place appropriate restrictions on the services they can provide, and procedures to ensure that DERs are not accounted for in ways that affect efficient outcomes in the RTO/ISO markets.

Day two (April 11)

On the second day of the technical conference, panels four through seven will look at: the collection and availability of data on DER installations, incorporating DERs in modeling, planning and operations studies, coordination of DER aggregations participating in RTO/ISO markets and ongoing operational coordination.

Panel four will focus on understanding the need for bulk power system planners and operators to have access to accurate data to plan and operate the bulk power system, explore the types of data that are needed, and assess the current state of DER data collection.

The panel will also address regional DER penetration levels and any potential effects of inaccurate long-term DER forecasting. The Commission Staff DER technical report was issued concurrently with the technical conference notice to provide a common foundation for the topics raised in this panel.

Panel five will focus on the incorporation of DERs into different types of planning and operational studies, including options for modeling DERs and the methodology for the inclusion of DERs in larger regional models. As with panel four, the FERC Staff DER technical report is intended to provide a common foundation for the topics raised in this panel.

The sixth panel will look at the potential ways for RTOs/ISOs, distribution utilities, retail regulatory authorities, and DER aggregators to coordinate the integration of a DER aggregation into the RTO/ISO markets. “In addition, because the use of grid architecture can help identify the relationships among the entities involved in coordinating the integration of DER aggregations, this panel will also examine the potential architectural designs for the initial coordination processes from the point of view of the RTO/ISO markets,” FERC said in the notice.

The seventh panel will focus primarily on the operational considerations associated with both individual DERs and DER aggregations and with the interactions and communications between DERs, DER aggregators, distribution utilities, and transmission operators.

DER report

In the DER report, FERC noted that in recent years, DER installations have increased significantly in some regions of the United States due in part to technology advances and state energy policies.

The report considers how the increasing penetration and integration of DERs in specific regions may affect bulk power system reliability.

It focuses primarily on the technical considerations for DERs as they are currently operated, and does not necessarily address how DERs may participate in the markets operated by RTOs and ISOs, FERC noted.

“To this end, FERC staff performed a series of technical assessments using industry power system models and commercially available power system simulation software to identify the potential reliability issues and likely benefits to the bulk power system resulting from an increased penetration of DERs,” the report said.

FERC said staff’s work identified, at a high level, several key topics that are addressed in the report and can be summarized as follows:

  • The impact of the current common industry modeling practice of netting DERs with load, which may mask the effects of DER operation;
  • DER capabilities for voltage and frequency ride through during contingencies;
  • The potential for improved customer-level voltages due to the unloading of the bulk power system associated with the location of DERs at or near customer loads;
  • Potential effects on system-wide transmission line flows and generation dispatch due to changing load patterns; and
  • The sensitivity of voltage or power needs to different types of DER applications (i.e., the provision of energy, capacity, or ancillary services).

Increasing DER capacity could cause reliability concerns

“Overall, the results of this analysis suggest that increasing DER capacity, if not properly accounted for, could cause reliability concerns for the bulk power system,” the report said.

“Further industry discussion is needed to improve and refine the data that is available for DERs that will be incorporated into planning and operating models,” Commission staff said, adding that collecting and using the most current and accurate data is key to getting a complete picture of how DERs affect the bulk power system.

In addition, further discussion and study is needed regarding other issues, such as sensitivities with higher DER penetration levels, changes in siting patterns, and potential impacts to the system’s response to events, disruptions and outages, including frequency events, the report said.

“Further exploration in these areas will help the Commission to track and assess the impact of changing conditions on the bulk power system to identify emerging trends and address potential future reliability challenges.”