Increasing amounts of renewable generation being incorporated into the grid, along with changing consumer interactions with generation resources and their utility companies, are impacting the relationship between wholesale suppliers and their distribution members.
This NRECA case study series is focused on this new energy resource model, highlighting the experiences of bellwether electric cooperatives and their generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) in managing industry changes, reducing risks and capturing benefits for cooperative member-owners. CASE STUDIES:
MORE ABOUT THIS INITIATIVE: What does the new energy resource model involve?
Distributed energy resources such as community solar, rooftop solar, wind generation, energy storage — both utility-scale and behind-the-meter, electric vehicle charging, homeowner-installed smart thermostats and innovative rate options are proliferating. As these assets are added to the supply and demand portfolio, their combined effect is to displace energy and power traditionally produced by power plants and to disrupt the utility status quo. System load curves that have remained stable for decades are becoming inverted as solar reaches higher penetrations. Economic dispatch of power plants is increasingly shaped by intermittent assets, such as solar and wind, whose output is continuously being fed into the grid when the conditions are right. Adapting to this new model and managing the associated level of business disruption are key challenges cooperatives face — distribution co-ops and G&Ts alike.
The new energy resource model goes well beyond the supplanting of energy producing assets on the electric grid. Key ramifications of the new resource mix include the following:
- Consumers are enabled to become net energy producers.
- Consumers can exert greater control over their patterns of energy usage and directly influence their cost, while at the same time impacting utility revenues.
- The account relationship between cooperatives and their members is being fundamentally altered, moving from one-way, provider-to-consumer to a two-way, synergistic relationship.
- Wholesale contracts and power purchase arrangements must often be restructured or realigned to maintain financial integrity.
This case study series, we will explore the physical, economic, financial and behavioral changes underway and consider their consequences for cooperatives, their power suppliers, member-owners and the communities they serve. Real-world lessons from featured cooperatives' direct experiences will be shared.
The impacts of a wide variety of energy resources will be examined throughout the series:
- Community solar
- Utility-scale wind
- Grid-scale energy storage
- Rooftop solar
- G&T and government-sponsored energy efficiency programs
- ISO/RTO or G&T-hosted demand response programs
- Distribution co-op energy efficiency programs
- Demand management programs
- Energy and demand technologies such as EV charging
- Behind-the-meter energy storage
- Thermal storage
- Advanced microgrids