Distributed energy can play a “much larger and more beneficial role” in the electricity energy infrastructure of the United States, according to a panel of experts from utilities, public interest groups and government.WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-09-05 [SolarAccess.com] Distributed energy can play a “much larger and more beneficial role” in the electricity energy infrastructure of the United States, according to a panel of experts from utilities, public interest groups and government. Distributed energy resources, when properly integrated into an improved national electric power system, “can foster lower prices, greater reliability, and a new platform for integrated consumer services,” according to Consumer Energy Council of America. “This was the highest ranking group of experts ever to take an in-depth look at distributed energy,” says CECA president Ellen Berman. “The report constitutes the most comprehensive analysis of distributed energy to date.” The group was chaired by Charles Curtis, former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy. Participants included executives from investor owned utilities, public power systems, and rural electric cooperatives, as well as senior officials at DOE, chairs of state public service commissions, and consumer and environmental leaders. “We are seeing the convergence of need – an aging utility infrastructure, new economy demands on power reliability and quality, consumer interest in greater flexibility and new services – with emerging technologies – fuel cells, microturbines, photovoltaics, and others – well suited to addressing those needs,” says vice chair Ernest Moniz. “The opportunity is at hand to begin reshaping our energy infrastructure for the 21st century.” Distributed energy is defined as small generators located near a consumer’s site. The size of the generator varies, with most current facilities using diesel engines or cogeneration steam turbines, although the report does examine the role of solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal sources. “This report constitutes the most comprehensive analysis of distributed energy to date,” adds Ellen Berman, chairman of the consumer group, who says the study will provide a turning point in congressional debate of energy-policy legislation. The CECA report says many hurdles must be overcome before distributed energy can realize its full potential within the national power infrastructure. Among its key recommendations are: – a call for rapid adoption of consensus standards for interconnection of DE into the nation’s power grid – quick action by local, state and federal regulatory authorities to “fast track” the use of existing and new standby and emergency power facilities to meet generator shortages and mitigate power reliability problems – support for DE in a way that will enhance environmental quality, and consideration of total system impact in the policy framework for DE – a concerted effort to develop and adopt best business practices in the treatment of DE – development of regulatory procedures to facilitate and support economic and technical transactions between the customer and host utility – development of creative new rate structures and business arrangements for DE – authority to allow local distribution utilities or service providers to own or operate DE, whether located on the grid or on customer premises – higher priority for federal research, development and demonstration of DE technologies and – a concerted effort to address the regulatory and institutional barriers to more widespread DE deployment. “These recommendations reflect the concerted regulatory, legislative, and business actions that are needed if distributed power is to grow in a timely fashion beyond important niche markets into a major component of an integrated modernized national electricity system,” says Curtis. “Today’s focus on energy issues and restructuring of the energy marketplace present an important opportunity for moving forward with such actions.” The consumer interest group spent more than a year to write ‘Distributed Energy: Towards a 21st Century Infrastructure.’ with substantial involvement of the U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agencies. Participation by the federal agencies represented “an unprecedented involvement of government officials,” adds Curtis. The recommendations “set forth a useful blueprint for bringing distributed energy resources into the mainstream of the electric industry as a key energy solution of the future,” says Fred Hafer of GPU. “The expansion of distributed resources points the way to opportunities for improving the environment, utilizing electric industry assets more efficiently, and for customers and electric companies to work together in this effort.” CECA is the public interest organization that focuses on energy and telecommunications industries that provide essential services to consumers.