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November 28, 2012

'Smart' Execs: Grid Growth Hinges on Energy Storage, Decentralized Generation



Energy storage, distributed generation, and microgrids will drive the evolution of energy markets over the next five years, according to 460 smart grid executives worldwide surveyed in September.

The study, “Power Systems of the Future: The Case for Energy Storage, Distributed Generation, and Microgrids,”  was conducted on behalf of IEEE (News - Alert), a New York City-based professional association dedicated to technological innovation, by Zpryme Research & Consulting of Austin, Texas. 

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Specifically, 69 percent of smart grid executives said they believe that energy storage technology and distributed generation are very important to increasing smart grid development. In addition, 50 percent of the respondents indicated that microgrid technology was essential.

“The smart grid is the premier technological and economic platform to build the 21st century, and this report details how energy storage, distributed generation and microgrid technologies are both fueling and feeding off of the smart grid engine,” said Andres Carvallo, a member of the Zpryme Smart Grid Advisory Board and executive vice president and chief strategy officer of San Diego-based Proximetry (News - Alert).

Added Wanda Reder, chair, IEEE Smart Grid: “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. 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.”

Three “overall conclusions” are defined in the Zpryme report:

Private- and public-sector funding for microgrid, distributed generation and grid-level storage research and development (R&D) 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.

Europe is the global leader in adopting and employing distributed generation and microgrids, while North America is prominent in storage technology. The report says that these regions stand to “take the lead when it comes to developing and deploying next-generation distributed energy systems.”

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.

The report also noted that these three technologies in support of renewable, next-generation energy would advance quickly in the short-term, with major increases in capacity. Thirty-five percent of respondents believed that global capacity for grid-scale energy storage—specifically, lithium-ion battery systems—would increase up to five gigawatts over the next five years. Likewise, 28 percent of respondents indicated that global capacity for distributed generation would increase by 10.1 gigawatts to 15 gigawatts over the next five years. And fully 39 percent of respondents predicted that global capacity for microgrids would increase by up to five gigawatts over the next five years.

“Key, interrelated themes emerged from the research behind the report, such as the necessity of customer demand to drive the market for the three technologies and, in turn, the need for customer feedback to infuse their R&D strategies,” continued Carvallo. “In this way, the report illuminates how storage, distributed generation and microgrid technologies can support important new revenue streams for manufacturers, utilities, end users and third-party providers alike, spurring new global markets for software and systems that integrate these technologies into modern and future energy systems.”

Survey respondents prioritized the benefits of each technology area. Energy storage’s “first-best benefit” was identified as the ability to provide supplemental power to meet peak demands. Distributed generation’s top benefit was identified as targeted addition of supply. Ability to meet local demand was listed as the top benefit of microgrids. The Zpryme report shows that 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.

To download a copy of the free report, click here.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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