Estimating the Value of Improved Distributed Photovoltaic Adoption Forecasts for Utility Resource Planning
Misforecasting the adoption of customer-owned distributed photovoltaics (DPV) can have operational and financial implications for utilities; forecasting capabilities can be improved, but generally at a cost. This paper informs this decision-space by using a suite of models to explore the capacity expansion and operation of the Western Interconnection over a 15-year period across a wide range of DPV growth rates and misforecast severities. The system costs under a misforecast are compared against the costs under a perfect forecast, to quantify the costs of misforecasting. Using a simplified probabilistic method applied to these modeling results, an analyst can make a first-order estimate of the financial benefit of improving a utility’s forecasting capabilities, and thus be better informed about whether to make such an investment. For example, under our base assumptions, a utility with 10 TWh per year of retail electric sales who initially estimates that DPV growth could range from 2% to 7.5% of total generation over the next 15 years could expect total present-value savings of approximately $4 million if they could reduce the severity of misforecasting to within ±25%. Utility resource planners can compare those savings against the costs needed to achieve that level of precision, to guide their decision on whether to make an investment in tools or resources.