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SEPA 2016 research offerings reflect expanded mission

By Erika Myers

By joining forces with the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid (ADS), SEPA has broadened the scope of its research and education beyond a core focus on solar to include a range of distributed energy resources (DERs).

This year, SEPA’s research will be guided by four overarching themes: transforming the grid; adapting the utility business model; proactive consumer engagement; and diversifying energy portfolios. The subjects of our research under these themes will include market trends, utility program design, grid integration, solar asset management, distributed resource planning and integrated resource planning.

Coming up this quarter

Within this expanded scope, SEPA’s research offerings for the first quarter of 2016 will include:

• Planning the Distributed Energy Future: Emerging electric utility distribution planning practices for distributed energy resources – February (public)

This joint white paper with Black and Veatch provides perspectives from five utilities at different stages of implementing proactive strategies for distribution resource planning. The paper includes background information on DER planning challenges, identifies activities and plans to accommodate different regulatory requirements, and presents generic frameworks and considerations for utility strategy and operations for proactive DER planning.

• Resource Guide on Solar Asset Management and Operations and Maintenance – February (member-only)

This guide contains a curated list of resources available to utility-solar asset and O&M managers to help them understand the interdependency of asset management and operations and maintenance issues and identify potential solutions for utility-scale solar PV projects.

• Accelerating Adoption of Community Solar – February (member-only)

This white paper by Pacific Consulting Group, in partnership with SEPA, assesses the results of a unique survey tool, known as the community choice model, which is based on feedback from potential community solar subscribers. The paper includes recommendations and considerations for utilities planning or already engaged in community solar program development.

• Beyond The Meter: The Evolving Utility-Customer Relationship – March (member-only)

This SEPA report will be the first in a series of DER papers to highlight opportunities for utilities to design and deliver customer-focused programs. This particular paper outlines critical elements for managing DER programs holistically. The paper draws practical examples from utilities already adapting their programs to offer new distributed resource choices for customers.

Most member-only documents will have publicly available executive summaries.

Coming in Q2

• Utility Solar Market Survey

In January, SEPA initiated its ninth annual Utility Solar Market Survey. The survey continues to include questions on utility-interconnected residential, commercial, industrial and utility-scale solar. It has also been expanded to include questions on DERs, including energy storage, demand response, advanced metering infrastructure and electric vehicles.

The survey is now open to all utilities, and the deadline to participate is Feb. 28. If you are a utility employee and interested in completing the survey, please send an email to [email protected].

The Top 10 solar utilities in three categories — investor-owned utilities, public utilities and electric cooperatives — will be recognized at the Utility Solar Conference in April. Full survey results will be released in June as part of the 2015 Utility Solar Market Snapshot.

Additionally, SEPA will also be releasing a DER primer as part of our Solar Fundamental Series.

• New research products

This month, SEPA is launching a new product, monthly Member Briefs. These short, focused research pieces are designed to address the gap between the long production cycle of a full research paper and the limited analysis possible in a blog. The first release in the February 16 newsletter looks at regulatory and legal challenges to renewable energy certificates within community solar program management.

SEPA will also soon be releasing former ADS materials that include industry-leading coverage of demand response and related issues. Our members will be able to access these technical materials, including webinars, case studies and reports.

Vision for the remainder of the year

Throughout the year, SEPA will continue to release timely and relevant materials on solar, including community solar, solar asset management, best practices for key accounts, and solar market information. SEPA will also integrate new “beyond solar” topics, such as distributed energy resource management systems, storage, advanced inverters, electric vehicles and other DER information.

We look forward to your feedback and recommendations for future research efforts. SEPA also seeks strategic partnerships to provide the best information to our members.

Questions, suggestions or requests for further information should be sent to [email protected].

Erika Myers is SEPA’s Senior Manager for Research.