Group to link clean energy technologies, reliability

Source: Rod Kuckro, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, June 29, 2018

A new advocacy group believes electric utilities and their regulators need a better understanding of the interplay between clean energy technologies and the smooth and reliable function of the nation’s bulk power system.

That is the purpose behind the founding of an effort named the Clean Reliability Project, led by longtime industry players Ric O’Connell and Michael Goggin.

O’Connell is executive director of Oakland, Calif.-based GridLab, which he started in 2017 after 12 years working on clean energy at engineering firm Black & Veatch.

Goggin is vice president of Washington-based Grid Strategies LLC and for a decade worked on market and transmission issues for the American Wind Energy Association.

He will be the primary representative of the new group on the North American Electric Reliability Corp.’s (NERC) key committees and task forces that are hashing out questions around clean energy integration into the grid.

The trade groups representing the wind, solar and battery storage businesses are well-established presences at electric industry meetings and in state and federal regulatory proceedings.

But they do not always act in concert or on the same issues, Goggin explained in laying out the mission for the Clean Reliability Project.

“I think it’s the ability to represent all of the inverter-based technologies — wind solar and battery storage,” he said in an interview.

Wind, solar and storage make up just a fraction of electric generation resources nationwide, but in some states and regions, their contribution is 20 percent or higher — and increasing.

“We have figured out in many parts of the country and in other countries how to integrate very high levels of renewable energy,” Goggin said, pointing to California, Colorado and the Southwest Power Pool.

“They figured out how to make it work, and they’ll tell you they can go much higher than they are today.” With most states at just 1 or 2 percent clean energy penetration, “obviously there’s a lot of room to grow,” he said.

“If you’re trying to be a mainstream energy source, you have to be a good citizen of the grid,” Goggin said as he described the group’s role as an educational one, especially for executives and regulators who are just now grappling with how to integrate clean energy onto their grids.

“Skepticism and concern about these new technologies are often in areas that have the least experience with them,” he said.

Wind, solar and storage have similar technical characteristics insofar as they use inverters to connect to the grid and convert direct current to alternating current.

NERC formed the Inverter-Based Resource Performance Task Force to develop guidelines and recommended practices for inverter-based resources connected to the bulk power system. Goggin is a member.

In May, the task force published an initial draft of the “Reliability Guideline: BPS-Connected Inverter-Based Resource Performance.” Comments on the draft are due tomorrow, and the guideline is expected to be finalized this year, Goggin said.

The guideline could very well develop into a mandatory NERC reliability standard, which would then require review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Inverter-based resources can meet the same standard as other conventional, synchronous technologies. We think that’s the right way to go,” Goggin said, arguing that NERC needs to have nondiscriminatory standards.

Wind, solar and storage with inverters “are just as good if not better” to regulate voltage and provide ancillary services to keep the grid reliable, he said.

The new group is being funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Energy Foundation.