In the past couple of years, the energy market in Texas has been in the news. Unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. Starting with the blackouts during winter storm Uri and continuing through this year’s concern of reliability in one of the hottest summers in recent history; the electric grid has been the target of scrutiny by regulators and the public alike. However, what has largely gone unreported is the growth in renewable distributed energy resources (RDER). In 2016, approximately 6,500 RDER systems with 77 MW of capacity were installed in the service area of Investor-Owned Utilities. Fast forward to 2021, and over 36,000 systems with a capacity of over 384 MW were installed. (Source: Analysis of DG Filing at the Texas PUC)
This growth in RDER installations can be attributed to several reasons. The price of solar photovoltaic systems has fallen significantly in the past ten years. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, costs have fallen by over 60%. At the same time, electric energy costs have been increasing. This coupled with utility incentive programs, is making PV technology more cost-effective. Additionally, the RDER interconnection process has been standardized and streamlined. The interconnection procedure has become more customer friendly and easier for the installation contractor. Finally, given concerns on grid reliability, many customers are taking steps to ensure they will have continuous power.
Of course, the foundation of this clean energy transition is energy efficiency programs. Texas utilities have been operating a successful portfolio of efficiency programs for a decade or more and have consistently exceeded their legislated goals. In fact, the state is considering expanding these programs by raising energy efficiency targets. The portfolio covers residential, commercial, and low-income program areas and impacts approximately 500 MW per year. (Source: Analysis of utility energy efficiency reports)
ANB Systems has played a role in helping the State make this transition. In this six-year period, tracking of over 70% of the installations, over 75% of the RDER generating capacity, and 30% of efficiency programs budgets have been facilitated by ANB software platforms. Systems like eTRACK+ have been used to manage the interconnection process, workflow management, and customer incentive payments. Also, machine learning and optical character recognition techniques have been used within the process to facilitate automatic extraction and validation of information from photographic images, layout sketches, and scanned documents. The clean energy transition will not dramatically happen overnight. This market will be transformed through individual customer decisions. It is critical for these customer decisions to be supported by software systems that make the applications and other services seamless and transparent, and ANB will be there for its customers during this transformation.
Written by – Michael Stockard
Michael Stockard is an independent consultant at Stockard Energy Advising and is a member of the Advisory Panel at ANB Systems. Michael has over 40 years of experience in the design and implementation of demand-side management programs.