| | JANUARY 20188A Customer-Centric Approach to Grid-Connected Distributed Energy ResourcesBy Rodger Smith, SVP & GM, Oracle UtilitiesElectric utilities--like all utilities--are in the service business. For many years, that was a straightforward, one-way delivery process: the utility provided electricity to its customers, and the customers paid the utility for the service. Providing service to today's electricity customer, though, is a different kettle of fish entirely. The electricity distribution grid is quickly evolving, fuelled by an explosion in the number of customer-connected distributed energy resources (DER) such as solar rooftops, batteries, home/building energy management systems and smart appliances. As customer interest in these grid-connected, customer-owned technologies continues to spread, new electric distribution network technologies are necessary to accommodate them, and a fundamentally different approach to the electricity grid is needed. The growth of DER generation outside the utility's direct control presents an operational challenge: the ability to control and optimize a more distributed grid requires utilities to have visibility and to be able to model grid resources all the way down to the consumer level. Legacy distribution systems were never designed to take granular customer DER into account: they can't provide visibility to grid-edge devices to any scale. Further, most of these new devices and services empower consumers to make energy decisions to meet their own needs, not those of the whole system. In this respect, this latter factor is tilting the grid toward customer-centric distribution systems.Defining the Customer-Centric Distribution GridTypically, the term "customer-centricity" means putting the customer at the center of the focus of your business, with an understanding that creating meaningful customer value and really putting customers first engenders the most--and the longest-lasting--business value.Customers now want from their utilities the same instant access to the most up-to-date information in the platform of their choice (telephone, e-mail, text, web portal, etc.) that they receive from other service providers. As well, as the cost of rooftop solar photovoltaics has dropped, customers want to have more control over their electricity source as well as their consumption. So, while the utility customer has historically been a more passive customer, this is no longer the case today. Active customer participation is putting the customer at the center of the grid equation like never before.The Customer-Centric Grid and DER Lifecycle ManagementCustomer-centricity is particularly important when we look at the changes the distribution grid must undergo as DER continue to proliferate at its edge. For the utility to fully integrate, manage, model and optimize DER in real time, a new lifecycle management model is necessary; one that will ensure the utility can also continue to maintain the safety, reliability and efficiency of its distribution network while still supporting this exponential growth of customer-level DER adoption. This new DER lifecycle management process starts with the customer, and ensures that he or she remains engaged throughout the entire cycle.Rodger Smith>CXO INSIGHTS
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