Distributed Energy and Low Carbon vs. Consumers, Regulators, and Tin Men

Mon Aug 01 00:00:00 EDT 2016
Dr. Jeff D. Makholm

In his upcoming bi-monthly column for the August issue of the Wiley journal, Natural Gas and Electricity, NERA Senior Vice President Dr. Jeff Makholm discusses a key component of “distributed energy generation;” solar photovoltaic (PV) installations—from “rooftop solar” to utility-scale projects. He contrast the essential romance in the idea—of moving to from a highly-centralized, carbon-heavy power supply system to one more decentralized, self-sufficient and green—with the obstacles put in the way of that vision, including consumer preferences, regulatory acceptance and technology.

Dr. Makholm discusses four reasons why adding PV installations, particularly at the “rooftop solar” end of distribution systems, onto the grids that modern consumers depend upon faces difficulties: (1) the grid itself ties together both the preferences and costs to serve all connected to it; (2) consumer energy preferences are inconveniently mismatched with sunshine; (3) metering and regulator-accepted tariff designs remain comparatively primitive; and (4) consumers may not be well informed about the long-term payoff of small-scale PV installations.

Dr. Makholm concludes that modern regulatory systems are not well-designed to encourage the economical provision of small-scale distributed renewable power in the absence of economical distributed storage technologies. The various problems are old ones; institutional and physical constraints that are well-known and hard to overcome.

Makholm, Jeff D. (2016, August). Distributed Energy and Low Carbon vs. Consumers, Regulators, and Tin Men. Natural Gas & Electricity 33/1, ©2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., a Wiley company.