4 Tips for Finding the Right DERMS This Global Energy Independence Day

Syd Bishop blog author Syd Bishop

The history of fuel sources is as vast as it is fascinating. One of the earliest forms of energy generation was using combustibles like wood to create fire for heat. Wind, whale oil, and more have been used as illuminants in history, sometimes leading to shortages of natural resources, which often proved as catalysts for energy innovation. While coal and fossil fuels have proven effective and reliable energy sources, these assets offer diminishing returns while directly contributing negatively to climate change. Newer technologies like distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) provide a path to energy independence for utilities to meet residential demand, by shifting energy to meet needs where and when necessary.

As such, Global Energy Independence Day was created to call attention to our collective struggles to find and maintain energy sources. Fortunately, with the introduction of technologies like distributed energy resources (DERs), as well as the distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) that manage these assets, utility operators have more and more opportunities to shift loads during peak periods of consumption better to meet the needs of an increasingly complex ecosystem of energy needs. However, not all DER assets or DERMS are created equally. Read on for our tips on what to look for in your DERMS to get the most out of your load management initiatives.

Nikola Tesla & Global Energy Independence Day

Global Energy Independence Day was created to celebrate the birthday of Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla who lived from 1856-1943. Of his many accomplishments, Tesla is perhaps most notable for his contributions to the alternating current (AC) systems that electric grids use to transmit power. This led to a bitter rivalry with entrepreneur Thomas Edison, who had invested in direct current (DC). So named the War of the Currents, the public spectacle was meant to draw public attention to the debate between AC and DC, and featured some particularly extraordinary and often extreme efforts to discredit AC by Thomas Edison.

Aside from celebrating the extraordinary accomplishments of Tesla, Global Energy Independence Day calls attention to the need for utilities to diversify their energy portfolios. To mitigate the effects of climate change while meeting decarbonization goals, a diverse array of potential fuel sources and a variety of load management strategies are needed to meet the increasing demand brought on by electrification efforts. Next, let’s look at a few ideas to help utilities find the right DERMS to meet their needs.

Tip #1: One-Size Fits All Limits Your Growth 👕

There are two primary varieties of DERMS: Grid DERMS and Grid-Edge DERMS. A Grid DERMS refers to a system designed to handle utility-owned assets within an otherwise closed system. By contrast, Grid-Edge DERMS were designed to handle residential behind-the-meter assets, distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar, battery, electric vehicles and EVSE, and smart home devices like thermostats or water heaters. While a Grid DERMS may handle something like a utility-owned solar farm, a Grid-Edge DERMS provides access to the community resources necessary to shift load during high periods of demand.

Grid DERMS provides a reliable and effective use case for otherwise intermittent distributed energy resources. Fortunately, through capabilities like Topline Demand Control which optimizes DERs to yield reliable and dependable outcomes, Grid-Edge DERMS are more effective than ever as a necessary parallel strategy for meeting demand, while assuring grid resiliency.

The last decade has seen eight of the highest temperature years in recorded history, and those high temperatures are likely to continue to increase. Between these rising temperatures, the erratic weather patterns caused by climate change, and continuing electrification efforts as we divest from fossil fuels, flexible load management remains critical in shifting demand to meet needs. Currently, Grid DERMS provides a reliable and effective use case for otherwise intermittent distributed energy resources. Fortunately, through capabilities like Topline Demand Control which optimizes DERs to yield reliable and dependable outcomes, Grid-Edge DERMS are more effective than ever as a necessary parallel strategy for meeting demand, while assuring grid resiliency.

Tip #2: A DERMS For All Seasons 🌄

Perhaps the most common demand flexibility programs are demand response, BYOD, or EV charging programs, concerted conservation efforts that shift demand to off-peak hours of need. These programs are typically run to correspond with temperature extremes, often during summer hours. Fortunately, these strategies are effective irrespective of the time.

U.S. residents employ many types of heating options to keep warm in the cool months, ranging from natural gas-powered devices to electric furnaces or heat pumps. According to a report from the Energy Information Administration, 47% of all households rely on natural gas for their heating needs. Juxtapose that with a U.S. map by population density and a picture forms: many southern cities exist in warm or temperate places with comparatively limited heating needs.

Although energy usage is typically higher in the summer months, as more Americans convert to electric heating alternatives and as weather systems continue to grow increasingly erratic, demand flexibility initiatives become more important regardless of season. Utilities investing in a DERMS solution not tied to any specific seasonal need, a platform that can run winter demand peaking programs and more, will gain an advantage by shifting energy not on a seasonal basis, but as necessary to meet demand.

Tip #3: Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket 🥚

With the influx of electric vehicles in the consumer market, many utilities are reasonably thinking about an EV managed charging program. While this strategy is valuable, it’s worth noting that electric vehicles and their related EVSE accouterment are one of many distributed energy resources. A robust DERMS has the capability of running many programs either in tandem or parallel. Using flexible dispatching functionality, the right DERMS can value stack by deploying programs by area, device, device type, need, or more. Through these parameters, utilities can address specific pain points or bottlenecks along the grid, initiate demand events from parent to subordinate utility, or run multiple programs in different areas to minimize customer disruption.

Tip #4: Integrations, Integrations, Integrations 🔌

Connecting devices to DERMS requires access to an API that allows the two to speak with one another. Unfortunately, API development times can delay program deployment or scalability. As such, when considering a new program to maximize energy independence, consider a DERMS provider with a deep bank of OEM partners, as that can and will expedite program deployment.

Global Energy Independence Day & DERMS Conclusion

As utilities continue to face the modern challenges of decarbonization and electrification during the energy transition, a diverse and dynamic strategy is necessary to meet demand without compromising on expensive peak energy purchases or deploying dirty (and also expensive) peaker plants for additional generation. So it might go without saying, but we celebrate Global Energy Independence Day every day, not just July 10, but we believe we can help. More importantly, we want to. Let’s make the energy transition smoother, easier, and more lucrative.

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About The Author
Syd Bishop blog author

Syd is a senior content specialist and all-around word nerd for Virtual Peaker. Syd believes in the inevitability of renewable energies and in implementing a diverse energy portfolio and is excited to use his skills to help spread that message far and wide. In his scant free time, Syd is a father of two, husband of an awesome wife, a musician, and a lover of comic books, and all things sci-fi.

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