Allowing clean distributed generation to interconnect with the power grid in the western United States is one way to solve the energy crisis in that region, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.PALO ALTO, California, US, 2001-06-29 [SolarAccess.com] Allowing clean distributed generation to interconnect with the power grid in the western United States is one way to solve the energy crisis in that region, according to the Electric Power Research Institute. Expanding the use and effectiveness of small modular forms of distributed generation must be a priority by next year, says EPRI in a white paper released Thursday. The expansion must be taken by accelerating the interconnection of DG technologies with the grid, resolving environmental constraints and streamlining the siting process. The utility group also calls for the pursuit of a balanced portfolio of generation sources in the western states to avert an over-reliance on natural gas. The technical recommendations are designed to solve the power crisis that began in California last year and now involves the eleven-state western grid and has the potential to expand more. The recommendations are backed by a diverse group of 35 stakeholders from California and other western states who attended a workshop at EPRI headquarters earlier in the month. The white paper contains 18 specific actions to help resolve the current crisis and to establish a transition pathway to a sustainable electricity infrastructure. In addition to regulatory and market reforms, all the recommendations require the introduction of new enabling technology to meet the objectives in a cost-effective timely manner. Among the recommendations are an upgrade to existing power plants to increase their capacity by 5 percent through advanced maintenance procedures and retrofits, and improved transmission capability to achieve more throughput. “The California power crisis is only the most visible part of a larger and growing energy problem in the United States; this has resulted from more than a decade of inadequate investment in power generation, transmission, distribution, and customer demand-response programs,” explains EPRI president and CEO Kurt Yeager. “An inadequate market design, in which price signals were not available to moderate demand, has exacerbated the supply-demand imbalance.” The recommendation to expand distributed generation and accelerate interconnection with the grid are included in the mid term period of 2002 to 2003. The report highlights an array of technology that can correct market flaws, from computer software to load management and conservation techniques. California will pay $50 billion for electricity this year, compared with $28 billion in 2000 and $7 billion paid in 1999 before the current crisis began. “Although construction of new plants will address the critical near-term need, it may create longer-term problems because nearly all the planned capacity additions will be fired by natural gas,” notes the report. “Research must be aimed at improved power production and end-use efficiency, including clean coal, advanced nuclear, and renewable generation, and storage technologies to complement efficient broad-scale deployment.” EPRI was established in 1973 to be the center for environmental research for electric utilities.