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Venezuela may be the new Puerto Rico!

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Reports from various agencies both in and outside of Venezuela indicate that it may take a year or more to fix the electrical grid.

Similar to Puerto Rico, the electric grid has not had adequate maintenance or care for more than a decade (some would argue in both cases more than 20 years).

No hurricane took down Venezuela, rather pure lack of maintenance let the system collapse. Some workers did everything they could to keep it working (similar to Puerto Rico) but like Puerto Rico it lacked consistent focus on maintenance and monitoring.

While I feel for both the citizens of Puerto Rico and Venezuela, I am worried that the current regulatory environment in the US and Europe is placing too much focus on DER and not enough on maintenance of the infrastructure.

While the top 10% of income earners can afford to leave the grid, the other 90% can not. What percentage of our citizens are we willing to leave in the dark by not focusing on maintaining and upgrading the grid (while also facilitates more DER if done right)?

Doug Houseman's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on April 22, 2019

"While the top 10% of income earners can afford to leave the grid, the other 90% can not." I understand this concern, and it's valid-- but I would say that the goal of such DERs is not to enable those who can afford to leave the grid, but in an effort to enhance grid resilience overall in a way that will also benefit the lower income. Locally-owned DERs in places like Puerto Rico can and will ensure that a total blackout is less likely to happen after the next hurricane and localized generation can get the lights on more quickly after a disaster

Gordon Matthews's picture
Gordon Matthews on April 30, 2019

DERs do provide a remarkable shift in our energy infrastructure and one that if integrated correctly will contribute to resilience.  My problem with the current paradigm, at least for solar PV, is that there is no thought regarding integration.  Rather, it is strictly an 'everybody for themselves' construct.  Note that unless a PV owner makes the added investment in a 'transfer switch', isolating their array from the local grid in the event of an outage, the array will (should) shutdown to prevent electrocuting lineworkers restoring service.

There is a solution that will insure that we, as a community, can capture the resiliency benefits: community or utility-scale solar.  Rather than me installing an array on my home, I 'contract' with the local utility to 'host' my panels on a large rack managed bu the utility.  Estimates (and data) show that I will be able to attain the same amount of generation for ~30% less in cost.  Some of that 30% savings goes to the utility to manage and maintain 'my' panels.  I inturn, am provided a billing credit for the perentage of generation provided by my panels on the (metered) rack.

By distributing these 'racks' across our communities, we will achieve a superior level of resilience.  The racks are telemetered by the utility and the distribution automation takes into account the state f the system to isolate viable islands following an event.  (The 'nmanaging' part of the utility's service).  The utility has 'awareness' of the array, and control of the generation - making this a true generating resource that can be dispatched, and the reliability insured.

Unfortunately, the current growth in individual rooftop arrays are just adding to the chaos, providing resources too small to monitor, too expensive to fully integrate the switching, and to manage individually as part of a collective resource.  We need to educate our customers, embrace our new opportunities, and architect the system to take full advantage of what this remarkable technological evolution affords us!

Robert Kravitz's picture
Robert Kravitz on April 30, 2019

Spot on Doug. We need to find a path that maintains and modernizes the grid while making it more decarbonized, decentralized and resilient.

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