Late last year, the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) released its 2023 Long-Term Reliability Assessment. For those familiar with the industry, the key points in the assessment should come as no surprise. The report emphasizes that the "North American bulk power system is on the cusp of large-scale growth" and raises concerns about the grid's ability to expand to meet the expected electricity demand growth across North America in the next 10 years.
While these concerns aren’t new, there is a growing urgency to address them. At T&D World, we’re pride ourselves in providing content from experts with real industry experience. The people who are each day dealing with the most critical issues and challenges faced by electric utilities. This content is featured in the pages of our magazine, various digital products, and at T&D World Live, our annual conference and exhibition.
In late December, the T&D World Live conference advisory board, composed of industry experts, most of whom work for utilities, met to discuss the upcoming conference and brainstorm content ideas. During the meeting, board members delved into what they believe are some of the most important industry topics of 2024. Here are some of those topics:
AMI 2.0 and Grid Edge
Approximately 25% of U.S. electric meters have yet to be upgraded to smart meters, but several large utilities are already transitioning from first generation advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to AMI 2.0. The advisory board members believe this move to more advanced AMI systems is crucial for success in the energy transition. AMI 2.0 provides detailed, real-time usage information, allowing utilities to better understand what is happening at the grid edge. Having knowledge about installed distributed energy resources (DER) like residential customers' EV charging and rooftop solar installations allows better decision making during short and long-range planning.
Battery Storage Growth
The board anticipates an increase in battery storage connected to the grid, not only for grid support but also for added capacity. The latest Energy Information Administration's Short-Term Energy Outlook confirms their thoughts by predicting an increase of more than 30 gigawatt in U.S. battery capacity by the end of 2024. California and Texas currently lead in installed battery capacity, driven by the rapid growth of solar and wind power in these states.
Black Sky Hazards
Reliability and resiliency, especially related to storm response, sparked significant discussion. Advisory board members emphasized the need to improve storm preparedness, restoration processes, and forecasting ability, particularly given the increase in the severity of weather events. Microclimates, small areas with distinct climates, were also deemed worthy of greater attention.
AI, Machine Learning, and Generative AI
The importance of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is growing, and board members discussed the convergence of the two, along with numerous industry use cases. They also stressed the need for utilities to embrace generative AI safely and effectively, addressing cybersecurity threats and ensuring employees understand its potential and risks.
DER Interconnection and Standards
As aggregated DER programs gain traction, the need for standards becomes urgent. Board members emphasized the importance of preparing for FERC Order 2222, centered around DER integration, set to be implemented in 2026. They stressed the urgent need to prepare.
Other Important Topics in 2024
- Adapting to winter demand response (DR), as climate change and the switch to electric heat pumps have transformed DR into a valuable winter tool, especially in places like Texas.
- The necessity for reforms in rate structures to incentivize grid investment.
- The rise in organizational changes driven by industry transformations, influencing utilities to reconsider their organizational structure, management, and management style.
If you’re interested in keeping up with what the T&D World Advisory Board has planned for the 2024 conference, hearing from the industry experts who will be speaking, and learning more about the topics that will be covered, be sure to read this new, regular column that will be featured monthly.
Editor's Note: the 2024 T&D World Live Conferene and Exhibition will be at the Hilton Atlanta Downtown from Oct. 1-3.