Changing Demand, Changing Grid: Delivering Power in a New Era
For the last century, energy use grew year by year. As population grew, more homes were electrified and more uses for electricity were found. Growing demand for energy was met through physical expansion of the grid to increase its generation and delivery capacity.
That growth culminated on a hot summer afternoon in 2013, when the New York electrical load reached 33,956 MW, a grid record for the state.
But the electrical grid is changing. Energy efficiency alone is expected to reduce peak demand on New York’s bulk power system by 245 MW in 2018 and by 2,262 MW in 2028. The combined effects of energy efficiency and distributed energy resources are expected to reduce demand from the bulk power system by nearly 3,700 MW by 2028, as consumers install onsite systems, such as solar power systems on roofs, to meet some portion of their electricity needs.
Meanwhile energy usage from New York’s bulk power system is expected to drop each year during the next decade. It’s not a big number, 0.14 percent annually, but the number signifies the impacts of energy efficiency and the growth of locally produced, behind-the-meter power.
While demand on the grid may no longer be growing at historical levels, planning and operating the grid is growing more complex. Technology, economic forces, and public policy are shaping a more dynamic grid. We are moving away from historical patterns of supply and demand, and towards emerging trends that reflect advances in how electricity is generated and consumed.
The demand for electricity fluctuates throughout the day, influenced largely by the time of day and weather conditions. As the level of generation from intermittent power resources such as wind and solar grows, the supply of electricity increasingly will also be influenced by weather conditions; specifically wind patterns and the availability of sunlight. Wind and solar generation vary with the level of wind and sunshine across New York. While forecasting tools can help to manage some of the uncertainty around wind and solar production, as production from these resources expands in the state, new tools will be needed to provide grid operators with the flexibility they need to maintain the critical balance between demand and supply.
This means historical, predictable demand patterns that characterized infrastructure planning over much of the last century are shifting, and new tools will be needed to maintain a balanced system in the face of these shifts. This dynamic introduces new variables that the NYISO is uniquely poised to meet through competitive wholesale markets that can provide the price signals to attract investment in, for instance, battery storage or enhanced transmission capabilities; technologies that can help balance the grid’s increased use of intermittent, renewable generation.
In collaboration with policymakers, regulators and market participants, the NYISO will continue to leverage our expertise in operating New York’s power grid through advanced market design and open, independent system planning in order to reliably and efficiently respond to the energy needs of all New Yorkers.
What does this mean for consumers? The growth of distributed energy resources means a greater role in how they consume power from, or even inject power to, the grid. Increasingly empowered with intelligent digital technologies and advanced communications tools, consumers are becoming active participants on the grid, supplying a portion of their own energy needs and adjusting energy use to reflect grid conditions.
It’s a fascinating time to be in the energy industry, with a lot more innovations to come.