The growing importance and role of distributed energy resources (DERs) is top of mind for most utilities, and we continued the conversation at this year’s DISTRIBUTECH. As reported in a recent Utility Dive study, “a whopping 84% of utilities predict that DERs will also increase as part of their overall fuel mix.” Technology evolution and catalysts like environmental regulations and severe weather patterns are inevitably pushing the landscape of the electricity industry toward a more distributed future.

Although consumer-driven sustainability efforts like electric vehicles, solar electric, battery storage and more are encouraged and becoming increasingly necessary to navigate the evolving DER landscape, utilities need to actively prepare for their impact on the grid.

A great starting point for utilities is demand response (DR). Itron’s demand response management system, IntelliSOURCE, has redefined the industry’s expectations by providing extensive additional capabilities such as integrated modules to manage energy efficiency programs and distributed energy resources for over 20 years. DR programs are important in that they allow utilities to incentivize and empower their consumers to reduce energy consumption during times of peak stress on the grid. An easy entry point for DR programs has emerged as an increasing number of consumers install Wi-Fi thermostats in their homes and commercial buildings, enabling “bring your own device” programs. These consumers provide utilities with a very inexpensive resource for demand response, and, by providing these customers with value-added services, utilities can increase customer satisfaction. Our partners, GridPoint and Encycle, offer two real-time examples of DR programs in action. Using OpenADR technology, these partners are integrating their energy management systems with Itron’s Distributed Energy Management System (DERMS) to conserve HVAC energy consumption and provide load reduction during times of peak demand.

Although DR programs are highly encouraged, alone, they are no longer enough for utilities to effectively manage the grid.

The time for active grid management is now. Itron’s DERMS can help cities and utilities actively manage all of the new flexible loads that are entering the grid. To take grid management to the next level, utilities can leverage Itron’s DER Optimizer solution (DERO). This enables utilities to expand their legacy DR programs to include a wide range of DERs, including electric vehicles, smart inverters, battery storage systems and other flexible loads. DERO’s real-time analytics and optimization engine allow utilities to strategically grow their program portfolio to a wide range of DER-based grid services, and can improve grid stabilization and reliability, power quality, pipeline management and conservation efforts.

By integrating open standards into a platform that automates every phase of DER management and active load management programs, while also providing utilities a single operational view into all of their residential, small business and commercial and industrial energy management initiatives, Itron enables utilities to leverage more types of DERs and devices to assist with grid balancing, stabilization and reliability. With DERO, utilities can manage solar power, energy storage and electric vehicles in addition to other traditional grid-connected flexible loads such as water heaters, pool pumps, thermostats and HVAC systems – all via open standards. This reduces the risk of stranded assets for the utility while driving the adoption of grid-connected smart energy products and more cost-effective programs. Our DERO is also leveraging the existing metering infrastructure, enabling distributed intelligence and leaning on DER gateways to leverage the flexibility of customer energy resources in concert with the conditions of the grid.

Stay tuned for more highlights from our time at DISTRIBUTECH 2023!

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