Rodica Donaldson, EDFR Sr Director, Transmission Analytics
EDF Renewables North America (EDFR) is a market leading independent power producer and service provider with 35 years of expertise developing and operating renewable energy projects. EDFR has developed 20 GW of renewable projects in North America and has 34 GW of projects in its development pipeline including grid-scale onshore and offshore wind, solar, storage, and distribution-scale offering,such as in-front-of-the metersolar and storage. Our onsite solutions, through our PowerFlex brand, offers behind-the-meter solar, storage, EV charging, microgrid and energy management. EDFR has built projects across the U.S. in both RTO and bilateral markets.
In my role as Senior Director of Transmission Analytics, I head a group responsible for forecasting and mitigating transmission congestion and curtailment risks for EDFR assets. We use production cost models to simulate the operations of the grid and project future congestion. Forecasting and mitigating transmission and congestion-related risks when grid capacity is limited, as well as accelerating market and transmission policy changes to enable better grid integration, have become a fundamental area of the business, as the pace of renewable installations continues to increase under states’ clean energy policies or corporate interest in corporate sustainability and decarbonization.
Transmission capacity and interconnection service are playing a critical role in enabling all generation, including renewable energy, to be brought to market. While innovation by a renewable IPP is typically thought of from a generation standpoint, EDFR is a strong advocate of innovation in the transmission space and flexible operations of the grid via adoption of Grid-Enhancing Technologies (GETs),such as dynamic line ratings, advanced powerflow controllers and topology optimization,which have the potential to maximize the capability of the existing infrastructure. The pace of GETs deployment is lagging in the U.S. compared to other parts of the world, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is in the process of taking a hard look at what approaches are required to encourage their deployment.
This is a welcome regulatory development. Use cases of GETs have been well documented to date, including, for instance, in a 2019 Brattle report,Improving Transmission Operation with Advanced Technologies. Based on EDFR’s experience of analyzing solutions to many transmission bottlenecks across several markets in the U.S., GETs can be efficient and cost-effective solutions to addressing congestion on the grid. They can also be deployed quickly. This is particularly important given the timelinesand complexities of building new transmission while congestion costs -ultimately passed through to end users of electricity– have been increasing in many RTOs.
"GETs can provide cost-effective solutions to a good number of grid constraints and be implemented expeditiously, all while maintaining reliability of the grid."
The grid of the future requires innovation not only in transmission technologies to be deployed but also in the area of transmission planning, interconnection and operations of the grid. A major FERC rulemaking has recently started to examine what reforms are required in transmission planning and interconnection processes, dubbed “Building for the Future Through Electric Regional Transmission Planning and Cost Allocation and Generator Interconnection,” 176 FERC ¶ 61,024 (2021). Any final order is likely to shape the grid of the future. In this proceeding, FERC has also asked what role GETs can play in the future.
Historically, transmissionhas been thought of as a mostly static asset, implying that many of its physical characteristics are deemed fixed.With more experience in GETs deployment over time, a more dynamic and flexible grid can emerge. Undeniably, reliability is front and center, and any GETs application needs to preserve it. A middle ground can be achieved for enhancing market efficiency via deployment of GETs, while reliability, resilience and flexibility are maintained and even improved. For example, process-wise, transmission planning is often focused on top constraints with the highest congestion scoring; in other words, constraints need to become severe enough before solutions are considered. Some of these constraints impede low-cost generation from reaching load today.In operations, generation redispatch has been the standard protocol for addressing binding constraints. This comes with a congestion costthat in some cases could be materially reduced or eliminated.Enhancing current practices via short-term planning and operations studies and processes focused on what transmission limitations could be resolved via GETs could go a long way towards their assessment and deployment. GETs can also be proposed in combination with traditional upgrades or can be used to minimize the impact of grid outages that are usually needed to support construction of transmission upgrades.
The bottom line is that GETs can provide cost-effective solutions to a good number of grid constraints and be implemented expeditiously, all while maintaining reliability of the grid.Both GETs and new transmission build are required to ensure a reliable and efficient grid especially against the backdrop of many regions being impacted by severe grid limitations, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and the fact that new transmission build remains a long lead development. Under such challenges, in addition to new transmission build, maximizing the grid’s existing capacity in a reliable fashion is a necessity requiring innovation, consideration and adoption of GETs. This was well recognized by FERC which noted in its Electric Transmission Incentives Policy docket that GETs can “Enhance reliability, efficiency, capacity, and improve the operation of new or existing transmission technologies”.