Imagining a new construct – an independent system operator for the distribution network.
Farrokh Rahimi is Vice President of Market Design and Consulting at Open Access Technology International, Inc. (OATI), and holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Before joining OATI in 2006, he collaborated with California ISO, for eight years, where he was engaged in market monitoring and design. Dr. Sasan Mokhtari serves as the Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, and President of Open Access Technology International, Inc. (OATI), which he founded in 1995 to provide software solutions for the deregulated energy industry.
The electric industry is undergoing a paradigm shift. Factors driving this shift include renewable resources, new technologies, demand-side participation, and a greater need for grid resiliency. The implications are inescapable, but are viewed differently by different stakeholders.
On one hand, regulators consider renewables, efficiency, and demand response as "preferred resources," blessed with beneficial impacts. Power system operators, meanwhile, may see these factors as "disruptive technologies" - threatening operational impacts at the distribution level, and possibly also in transmission.
At the center of this shift is the "prosumer" - a new market player we can define as a consumer who controls active, surplus generation resources available to inject power into the grid.
This increasing penetration of distributed, customer-side resources (think rooftop solar) will strike directly at the utility bottom line but, just as important, will add to requirements for system reliability. At a minimum, these changes give rise to new operational problems for operators of the distribution system. Utilities will need to extend their visibility to customer-side assets and revamp their conventional distribution system operational procedures and tools to maintain reliable system operations.