Opportunities and Challenges to Capturing Distributed Battery Value via Retail Utility Rates and Programs
Distributed battery deployment is increasing with advanced metering, control, and communication technologies, leaving electric utilities with an under-utilized, flexible grid resource in aggregate. Rates can reflect locational and temporal prices while utility incentive-based programs allow DERs to provide direct grid services. However, utilities must balance accurately reflecting dynamic grid conditions versus simple and feasible design that encourages customer participation. Currently, most rates and incentive-based programs are simple, but as penetration of DER and advanced controls increase, dynamic designs could become prevalent.
Utilities could encourage providing multiple services to optimize distributed battery dispatch and value streams, however, challenges persist when stacking services across distribution and bulk systems. A DER committed to multiple discrete services concurrently necessitates coordination between operators and a clear hierarchy of commitments. One way to address this is to separate commitments by time or capacity. For services that follow cyclic, predictable patterns, or those that are peak driven with predictability, an operator could ensure sufficient state of charge for participation, leaving time where a distributed battery could otherwise provide different services by segmenting participation temporally. To provide continuous or unexpected services, a battery operator may use state of charge management to reserve some percentage of the battery and segment participation by capacity.
Macroeconomic trends, load patterns, generation profiles, and grid configurations drive variation in value and the subsequent implications for utility offerings and how a customer might participate. As distributed battery adoption increases, both regulators and utilities will need to ensure no adverse grid impacts and encourage provision of societal value beyond the customer domain.