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Flexible Load in California & Hosting Capacity

A nice recent article by Ryan Hledik and Ahmad Faruqui, economists with The Brattle Group highlight the value of #flexibleload in California and how it could have potentially avoided the recent blackouts there.

The article describes aligning consumption to real time prices is required to encourage load to shift to lower cost periods alleviating stress on the grid and its generation fleet. Also how technologies such smart thermostats and increasingly managed #EV charging and #energystorage provide technology solutions to achieve flexible load.

The article briefly touches on one important point I would like to expand on and that is increasing load i.e. storage when charging, EV charging and general load, to help accommodate and reduce curtailment needs of renewable generation. This application of flexible load is relatively new and relatively unexplored and tested. Essentially increasing load during period of high renewable generation output for e.g. #solarPV on a distribution system has the same proportional impact on hosting capacity for solar PV as increasing the distribution conductor capacity, depending on the location of that increased load. This relationship between load and hosting capacity was evident recently due to #COVID19 impacts on distribution feeders with high C&I load that significantly reduced and in some cases resulted solar PV connected to the same feeder/substation having to be turned off or curtailed.

A key question is how to incentivize load to not only to reduce peak load impacts but also increase load at times when renewable generation output is high or could be high if sufficient load was able to absorb the generation. Today there are TOU (Time of Use Rates) and programs for peak load reduction, but do they sufficiently capture the value provided for increasing load? In addition many demand charges for C&I customers are independent of time of day and are simply based on the highest load of the customer, regardless of the time of day the highest load occurred. As such, could penalize flexible load providers for increasing load when the grid and renewable generation needs it.

Just as Ryan Hledik and Ahmad Faruqui state is their article, it would be good for utilities and regulators to think more about this.

By David Lovelady

Founder of LovEnergy

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