In February 2016, the energy industry saw PowerSecure merge with one of North America’s largest Investor-Owned Utility, Southern Company (SOCO). In a statement, SOCO CEO, Thomas Fanning, stated that “there is demand for distributed infrastructure solutions that best meet each customer’s unique energy needs.” SOCO and its subsidiaries serve more than 4 million customers throughout the Southeastern area of the United States. Geographically located in an area that experienced some of the worst superstorms in the past decade, it is clear why SOCO made a large investment in distributed infrastructure.
With microgrids, utilities can increase their visibility and optimize many facets of the grid when combined with behind-the-meter capabilities for grid resiliency. These improved capabilities allow utilities to use microgrids for Demand Response (DR) needs, as a smarter way to integrate Distributed Energy Resources (DER), and to minimize carbon footprints. In each scenario, a heavy influence is how customers are driving utilities to address their unique needs and as a result, utilities are turning to microgrids to address these needs.
Beyond the immediate needs of customers, utilities are exploring how microgrids can increase reliability and resiliency to address regulation requirements, improve reliability in specific geographic areas, or to offer better economic investments for all affected stakeholders. As the technology continues to improve, the energy industry will continue to experience the disruption of microgrids. In 2017, it is apparent that taking part in a DER future and building a better energy infrastructure will be critical for the future of utilities.