Full Title: Improving Distribution System Planning To Incorporate Distributed Energy Resources
Author(s): Dave Gahl, Brandon Smithwood, & Rick Umoff
Publisher(s): Solar Energy Industries Association
Publication Date: 07/2017
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Built during the last century, the United States electric grid was primarily designed to transport
electricity from large central station power plants to end-use customers. But with rapid growth of
distributed energy resources, such as solar, resulting from falling costs and technological advances,
customers are increasingly taking charge of their own energy. These resources offer the promise of
a more innovative, economic, and cleaner electric grid.
This is a future in which distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar power, will play an important
role providing power and grid services where they are needed most. To reach this goal,
however, distribution grid planning must evolve from a largely closed process (a “black box”) to one
which allows transparency into system needs, plans for distributed energy resources growth, and
ensures that the capabilities of distributed energy resources are fully utilized.
This paper is the second in SEIA’s series on grid modernization and focuses on distribution planning
and operations, which is foundational to various facets of grid modernization. We start by reviewing
the utility distribution system planning process today and identify key processes and concepts.
Next, we discuss how two leading states are attempting to modernize distribution planning to both
plan for distributed energy resources as well as leverage their capabilities.