CADER/DPCA Symposium on Distributed Resources

[I’ll be attending the DOE Distributed Power Program Review and Planning Meeting in Washington next Monday September 27, followed by the IEEE working group session.]

San Diego Sept 13-14

(see program/agenda at

The meeting was very well attended, exceeding expectations, with roughly 400 registered. It included keynotes by notables (Larry Papay of Bechtel, Dan Reicher, Ass’t Secty, EE/DOE, and David Rohy, Calif Energy Commissioner) and two days of parallel sessions on “Policy”, “Technologies” and “Markets”. It was impossible to be in 3 places at once, however the 2″ thick binder provided copies of the vugraphs from most of the presentations.

A dominant theme: it is not a matter if, or even when, but only of how fast, distributed generation will be deployed on a major scale. In fact, DG is already here, and has been for a long time, in various forms and applications. If it truly is a “disruptive technology”, then we can expect it to lurk below the surface, serving in various niche applications, until a crossover occurs and it emerges an a major scale.

The biggest issue seems to be interconnection with the grid. Advocates see utilities as putting up strong resistance. One speaker, Edan Prabhu, explained it terms of distribution departments, at the low end of the totem pole in utilities, trying to protect themselves and their “turf” from this dangerous invasion of “their” system. He explained how the good guys meet the “nice guys”–DG advocates vs. the well-meaning protectors of the system.

There was considerable muttering in the back of the room as speakers from the California utilities claimed to be doing all they can. Repeatedly, we see instances where utilities can handle interconnections just fine, when they want to. In other situations, however, they seen as throwing up roadblocks and delays. Ironically, utilities are entirely comfortable with large motors, which feed back fault current when voltage disappears, but this same issue is seen as a huge problem for DG.

As Dan Reicher explained in his comments, nine states have now gone ahead to establish some kind of interconnection standards for small scale generation, while the long term answer is to have one new national standard. The IEEE work under Dick DeBlasio is key to this, and DOE also supports the development of advanced hardware and software for interconnection.

There was a very good summary of the remarkable events in Texas, where a process has moved with unprecedented speed to cut through the confusion and arrive at an interim set of workable policies. The proposed rules are available online:

A hearing is scheduled for October 25. The presentation was given by Nat Treadway, a former PUC analyst, who is now on his own. 713-669-9701,
New York state has a similar initiative for small DG (under 300 KVA). A commission staff proposal was issued in July, however timing of a decision is uncertain. Comments were due by September 20.
In California, the PUC took longer than expected to announce a decision on a staff recommendation to split their rulemaking proceeding into two parts — Distribution Competition, and DG Implementation Issues. A draft decision to do this was finally announced Sept 21, and is now available online (2 documents) at:
The California ISO presented an interesting comparison of technical requirements for large generators on the system with what might be needed for DG. Generators need to have sophisticated communications and control capabilities that the ISO can monitor and talk to directly. The ISO is implementing the “ANALOPE” system to do some of this over the internet (there is a strong need to certify bids and contracts–i.e. failsafe digital signatures). Once this is established, it may pave the way for the use of internet technology to communicate with DG’s and enable them to participate in the California energy and ancillary services markets.
(Contact: David Hawkins 916-351-4465
The Technology sessions featured presentations by makers of microturbines, fuel cells, reciprocating engines, dish stirling, storage, and renewables. Discussions on “Markets” ranged from the “sleeping giant” of international electric demand, to combined heat and power and the use of smart technology to capture market value. Selected items may be featured in future UFTO Notes.

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