Smart Energy International Exclusive: National Grid US talks grid resilience


Smart Energy International (SEI) spoke to Carlos Nouel, VP of innovation and development at National Grid to find out how they ensure grid resilience in the industrial and commercial (I&C) space.

SEI: What is the importance of behind-the-meter energy resilience?

CQ: The need for resiliency varies quite a bit within the I&C space. For our largest customers, a short interruption has a significantly higher impact than for small and medium customers. Large customers tend to have production lines or some kind of process that is highly energy intensive. Also most of those customers run 24/7 operations so there is no room for anything that stops the production.

Small and medium customers have fewer resources to make incremental resiliency investments. They would benefit from higher resiliency at the community/system level rather than behind the meter. Those customers tend to apply the majority of their resources (capital and people) to their core business, so anything that distracts them from that is not ideal for them.

Also, we are starting to see more of our large customers looking to build additional assets to increase their individual resilience. The most common things we see are CHP units and batteries.

SEI: What does resilience look like to I&C energy consumers?

CQ: We are seeing more activity from our largest customers. Those are the ones that are making incremental investments within their facilities. We have also done projects to increase resiliency for critical areas/facilities to mitigate the impact of disruptions.

SEI: Can you describe the influence of energy storage on resilience?

CQ: Storage (both behind the meter and in front of the meter) is a technology that is helping to increase resiliency in certain areas of the grid. Unfortunately given the current costs of storage, it becomes really difficult for customers of all sizes to install storage in their facilities.

Another interesting aspect of using storage for resiliency purposes is that it affects the business case for the deployment. For example, if we were to install a battery to pick up the load in one area, if the feeder comes down, we would need to have the battery fully charged the entire time to make sure the battery can respond effectively.

As a result of that, the battery cannot be leveraged for other services such as frequency regulation or wholesale market, which reduces the amount of benefits that can be captured.

Finally, the other technology we see in our customer base is super-efficient gas fired generators and in some cases, fuel cells that can work as backup power.