Smart grid driving energy storage, distributed generation, microgrids

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Research commissioned by IEEE and conducted by Zpryme details how energy storage, distributed generation and microgrid technologies will evolve globally over the next five years due to rapid smart grid deployment.

The report comes to some interesting conclusions. First, private and public sector funding for microgrid, distributed generation and grid-level storage research and development, and projects/pilots would contribute to more cost-effective solutions, inform better business cases and help reveal best practices around installation, application and optimization for the technologies.

Second, Europe is the global leader in adopting and utilizing distributed generation and microgrids, while North America is prominent in storage technology. These regions stand to "take the lead when it comes to developing and deploying next-generation distributed energy systems," according to the report.

Third, energy management systems, distributed management systems and communications technologies are identified as the critical enabling technologies for energy storage, distributed generation and microgrids, as well as advanced grid services such as net metering, load aggregation and real-time energy monitoring that, in many cases, will be delivered in the cloud.

Other interrelated themes emerged. For example, while customer demand is necessary to drive the market for the three technologies, in turn, the need for customer feedback for research and development strategies is also necessary. The report also illustrates how storage, distributed generation and microgrid technologies can support important new revenue streams for utilities, driving the integration of these technologies into modern and future energy systems.

"The smart grid is a journey. The methods and technologies that undergird electricity delivery around the world have grown steadily more intelligent over decades, and now, with the smart grid, we're challenging traditional norms that utilities and their suppliers have known," said Wanda Reder, IEEE smart grid chair.

"Energy storage, distributed generation and microgrids will prove to be critical elements in the transformation, as will incentives, standards, policy, and customer engagement. And all of those pieces must align logically within a long-range plan for society to efficiently realize the revolutionary benefits that the smart grid promises," she said.

 Also interesting is the way respondents prioritized the benefits of the technology areas. According to respondents, energy storage's "first-best benefit" was the ability to provide supplemental power to meet peak demands. Distributed generation's top benefit was the targeted addition of supply. The top benefit of microgrids was the ability to meet local demand.

Ulimately, the importance of all three technology areas is rising along with global interest in more efficiently managing energy consumption, growing electricity demand and increasing awareness of the cost of service interruptions.