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From expanding grid assets to digitization and decarbonisation, the 2020 DISTRIBUTECH International built upon and added specificity to themes from recent years. Two key themes of the conference included data analytics and distributed energy resource (DER) management systems (DERMS). Professionals convened in San Antonio, Texas to share improvements in grid visibility and DER orchestration. A technology-focused show, DISTRIBUTECH International bolstered my expectations for the future of utility and government integrated DER (IDER).

Exhibitor demonstrations and event speakers highlighted the continued relevance of IDER programmes throughout the energy transformation, which will result in a reliable, resilient, and clean energy future. The conference demonstrated how technology and customer engagement solutions will continue grow the IDER market over the coming decade. Navigant Research, a Guidehouse company, breaks IDER into several categories, including:

  • Integrated demand-side management
  • Bring your own device
  • Non-wires alternatives
  • Deregulated IDER
  • Other IDER

Turning Potential Grid Strain into Assets with an IDER Approach

Residential customers are working to gain more control of their home energy ecosystems. Commercial and industrial (C&I) customers continue to seek ways to reduce energy bills and take advantage of new value streams. The capabilities, demonstrated in sessions and on the exhibit floor, indicate the promising growth of IDER programmes. Developing and integrating solutions can simultaneously help customers achieve their objectives while giving utilities better understanding and control of potential assets deployed in the field.

The sophisticated advanced distribution management systems and DERMS capabilities showcased at DistribuTECH International will play a critical role in growing utility and government IDER programs around the world. Solutions demonstrated across vendors may give curious customers greater insight into the performance of their own behind-the-meter DER. However, a large emphasis was put on the automated management of DER to optimize grid performance without inconveniencing or requiring proactive engagement from residential and C&I customers.

Customer Engagement Solution Support Enrollment of IDER

Utilities and energy suppliers, however, continue to take advantage of DER orchestration and grid management to improve their relationships with customers. Technological solutions demonstrated through the event were not limited to grid hardware or software. They also included customer engagement tools.

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) providers made several announcements before and at DISTRIBUTECH. Improved grid insights from AMI, and other developments, combined with stronger data analytics can assist utilities in better targeting IDER programs to an interested and relevant customer base. Where engaged customers have concerns, call center solutions that combine both artificial intelligence and human connection help to resolve challenges rapidly. Support for end-users is critical to scale the growth of IDER programmes and remains front of mind for many of the solutions providers present at the event.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Navigant Research anticipates that nearly $4.8 billion will be spent on IDER programmes by 2028. Getting there will require continued communication and integration across the utility demand-side management supply chain.

IDER Spending by Region, World Markets: 2019-2028

IDER

(Source: Navigant Research)

DERMS platforms will turn a growing number of DER into grid assets, and grid services will continue to improve for renewable balancing. Improved grid visibility will indicate where optimisation across technologies can strengthen reliability and resiliency. Tying these solutions to customer engagement platforms will help to improve customer satisfaction and lower business disruption risks more traditionally associated with participating in demand-side management programmes. DISTRIBUTECH 2020 confirmed that IDER programs are most active in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific to date. As technologies spread, however, and environmental pressures intensify, various forms of IDER will become global in scale.