DISTRIBUTECH 2020: Tuesday wrap-up


DISTRIBUTECH International’s first full conference and exhibition day welcomed delegates to the event with a keynote session headlined by Paula Gold-Williams, President and CEO of CPS Energy.

Gold-Williams shared CPS Energy is planning for a more flexible path to reduce its carbon footprint and the role that distributed energy resources (DERs) at scale will play in that strategy. 

CPS is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, having already closed two coal-fired power plants in 2018 and now considering the future of some single-cycle, natural-gas-fired power plants.

Gold-Williams spoke of the utility’s reliance on large-scale generation and grid reliability and resilience – a challenge that she believes is going to grow – especially as the level of renewable energy on the grid increases.

Gold-Williams reminded the audience: “We have to focus first on reliability,” continuing: “Solar’s great — you just have to wrap something around it to make it effective.”

To this end, CPS Energy has formulated Flexible Path – a plan to increase the share of renewables to 50% and be 80% carbon neutral by 2040. The plan is to reach NetZero status by 2050. In addition to the addition of renewable energy resources to the grid, 16% of the energy needed will theoretically come from “flexible generation,” which is a catch-all for technologies which might not be economically viable at the moment.

The Flexible Path plan will see CPS get half of its energy from wind and solar by 2040. Thirteen per cent would be generated by natural gas, 9% by nuclear and 7% from coal, while battery storage would account for 5%

CPS Energy is testing integrated solar-storage-grid control systems to help balance intermittent renewables with flexible loads.

CPS Energy serves more than 840,000 electric and 350,000 natural-gas customer accounts.

Futurist Sophie Hackford spoke about the ways that data and artificial intelligence can play a role in the energy future.

Meanwhile, Tom Deitrich, Itron CEO shared some thoughts on the importance of weather resilience during his keynote speech. According to Deitrich, increasing extreme weather events such as hurricanes and wildfires will demand a strong utility response. At the same time, reliability will be challenged by the addition of unconventional loads or asses such as renewable energy and EVs.

He further predicted that there will be a need for “more agile systems for operational improvements and for consumer engagement.” This requirement will be met by an increase in smart meter computing power, communications hubs and distributed endpoints.

Company and partner news:

Itron announced a collaboration with Innowatts, a provider on AMI-enabled analytics and AI-based solutions, at DTECH this week to provide utilities with AI-driven data insights to enhance customers’ energy experience and boost grid stability. Innowatts is using detailed data from Itron’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) solution for predictive analytics.

The collaboration is an example of how utilities can address key pain points they have all by harnessing their existing Itron network to deliver new insights, predict customer consumption and generate important intelligence about customer energy usage behaviours.

From the Twittersphere: #DTECH2020

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