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Building the Plug and Play Grid

Building a seamless new grid

EDITOR’S NOTE: Drew Murphy, of Edison International, helped launch The California Renewables Rush conference recently in San Francisco. This article is the last of a three-part series extracted from his opening keynote presentation.

To meet the needs of energy stakeholders, we need to provide the 21st century power network that allows a wide variety of DER technologies, two-way energy flows, customer transactions, market participation and increased procurement of renewable energy.

To make this all work seamlessly requires a new grid architecture—one that will allow the grid to serve as an integrating platform for the technologies, products and services that will be the new types of energy solutions. Grid reinforcement and modernization is required to maintain reliability and realize DER operational capability. The grid of the future will need enhanced capabilities to monitor the grid, analyze data and control and optimize distributed and centralized resources.

Getting this done is going to require all of us in California to work together.  The confluence of new policies, technologies, evolving customer needs and market dynamics creates tremendous opportunity for all stakeholders – utilities, vendors, developers and service providers alike. We believe there is much value to be created as this transformation occurs.

This isn’t a zero sum game. But, it will take utilities, regulators and third-party providers working together in a fast, flexible, integrative and collaborative manner to get to where California wants to be.  And we need to do so in a way that allows customers to choose technologies while ensuring that we provide safe, reliable and low cost energy.

While some may see this as a threat to the electric utility business, we believe that this is an opportunity—and that utilities have an enduring role to play: to provide the 21st century power system that will be much more distributed, will enable customer choice of technology, and will be more interactive and transactional for grid operators, customers, aggregators and other energy solution providers.

A good model for the kind of partnerships we foresee in this future is our Charge Ready program, which we recently started piloting in Southern California. We are building electric vehicle infrastructure up to the charging stub as extension of the traditional distribution system, and commercial third parties will deploy the charging stations based on the choice of the customers.  This is a good example of a new utility role and successful collaboration between the utilities and commercial parties to achieve public policy objectives of electrification of the transportation sector.  Similar partnership models could also be applied in the renewables area. 

We also have a role to play in places where third parties are not equipped or motivated to step in to partner, such as deploying community solar in underserved neighborhoods.  To jump start community solar, we are offering our community renewables program to developers. We began accepting applications for this program on April 1, 2016. 

So, where do we go from here?  In our Distribution Resources Plan, filed with the California Public Utilities Commission last July, we proposed our roadmap to build the plug and play grid.  In it we propose five demonstration projects that will provide practical applications to better understand the grid impacts of a higher penetration of DERs.  And, last month we unveiled our proposal for a new grid management system. 

As we continue to move towards fully meeting California’s new clean energy goals, we are governed by four key principles;

Increase customer choice enabled by grid modernization by creating a plug and play 21st century grid.

Establish and operate competitive markets for customers and third parties to provide and benefit from grid services.

Continue to honor the utility’ social compact to provide fair and universal electric service for all customers in all classes.

Optimally achieve ambitious environmental policy objectives while maintaining reliable and affordable service.

Making sure that we are on the path to meeting the state’s ambitious renewables and clean energy goals while following these principles definitely means that things will not be “business as usual” for us at Edison.  But when has being in the energy industry in California ever been business as usual? So when we look at what lies ahead for us and for the rest of the participants in this business, we say “bring it on!”   We’re ready for the challenge – and the opportunity for us and for others to create value while also reaching the state’s lofty goals. And we look forward to continuing on this journey in partnership with all of you.

Drew Murphy is Edison International senior vice president, Strategic Planning.


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