Utility Dive Quotes Whit Johnson on Utilities’ Increasing Acceptance of Distributed Energy Resources

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Technology and intellectual property attorney Whit Johnson was quoted in Utility Dive in an article titled “2020 Outlook: Utilities will be pushed to further embrace distributed energy resources,” published January 17, 2020. The article discusses how the adoption by consumers of distributed energy resources (DERs) – technologies such as rooftop solar, batteries to store energy generated by solar panels, and electric vehicles – is creating challenges and costs for utilities that they will need to manage.

Annual residential solar PV installations have increased tenfold in total MW since 2010, but some of the impetus to install them will be lost as the solar investment tax credit (ITC) decreases and expires in the next few years. Recovery from the loss of the ITC might include a push for solar installations in areas of the U.S. that have historically been unfriendly to them.

The increase in rooftop solar installations is benefitting another form of DERs: battery storage. As solar customers find they are less likely to be paid the retail rate for surplus electricity they export to the grid, the appeal of storing electricity at home will grow.

Finally, increasingly popular electric vehicles can have a secondary purpose – as battery storage that utilities can call on to discharge electricity at times of peak demand. Suggestions for utilities to make money from EVs include using them to provide demand response, ancillary services or deferral of grid infrastructure investments.

Critics say that utilities that are slow to see the benefits of including DERs in their plans are not paying attention, but Whit Johnson believes that will change.

“With the proliferation of technology, the adversarial component will diminish. The utilities will say this can be economical for us too,” he said. “It makes economic sense to use this store of energy that is already there on the rooftops and in the garages of millions of customers.”

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