Integrating Renewables Into The Grid

FERC seeks to break down barriers to the integration of renewable energy resources

Although there is tremendous excitement about renewable energy, to an existing grid, new sources of energy can be difficult to manage and integrate. Variable energy resources (VERs to the transmission grid operators) have experienced some bumps on the road to integration. As the map on the left shows, there is both a regional and time dimension as to when and how much wind, solar and other renewables are available.

As a result, FERC, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is seeking public comment on whether existing rules, regulations, tariffs, and industry practices may be creating barriers against reliably and efficiently using renewable sources on the grid.As NERC, The North American Energy Reliability Corporation stated in a recent report:

"Today, the bulk power system is designed to meet customer demand in real time "“ meaning that supply and demand must be constantly and precisely balanced. As electricity itself cannot presently be stored on a large scale, changes in customer demand throughout the day and over the seasons are met by controlling conventional generation, using stored fuels to fire generation plants when needed."

FERC aims to reform regulatory, market, and operational practices that discriminate against VERs or results in unjust and unreasonable rates or terms of service. In addition, FERC will consider how NERC's Reliability Standards should be modified or created in conjunction with other considered reforms. The proceeding will focus on, but will not be limited to, the following issues:

  • Data and Forecasting Requirements. Can enhanced forecasting tools and procedures assist with predicting the output from variable energy sources with greater accuracy? Would such abilities, including data sharing and metering, allow transmission system operators to anticipate ramping events and use reserve services more efficiently.
  • Scheduling Flexibility and Scheduling Incentives. Recognizing that its reserve policies were developed with predictable resources in mind, would scheduling flexibility, such as intra-hour scheduling, help to reduce generation imbalances and anticipate variability.
  • Day-Ahead Market Participation and Reliability Commitments; Capacity Markets. The Regional Transmission Organizations and Independent System Operators require market participants to enter day-ahead offers, an exercise that transmission system operators use to ensure that generation is available to meet estimated demand. Because the offers are financially binding, many variable energy resources forgo the risks of the day-ahead market and instead sell their services into real-time markets. One question is how shorter, intra-day intervals would affect reliability, since an inefficient commitment process causes unnecessary costs.
  • Balancing Authority Coordination. Smaller balancing authorities have more limited abilities to integrate and balance variable resources, which can lead to rates that are unjust and unreasonable. FERC would like to examine tools that would increase coordination or encourage consolidation.
  • Reserve Products and Ancillary Services. Transmission system operators balance generation and demand through (a) frequency response, (b)regulation services, and (c) following services. FERC proposes to address whether increased VER capacity will cause an over-reliance on pricey reserve products, and to explore whether new or modified reserve products can efficiently respond to VER characteristics.
  • Real-Time Adjustments. FERC is interested in whether practices and protocols are transparent and efficient, and whether they result in unnecessary costs or rates that are unjust and unreasonable. One questions is whether VERs are curtailed too frequently in response to transmission congestion, minimum generation, and ramping events due to a lack of transparency in curtailment protocols.
By A Tana Kantor
Based on a report from the law firm Stoel Rives. For the full release, please click here.