It was -15°C in Dallas on Family Day. Spot prices for electricity in Texas jumped 3.466 per cent and more than five million people across the region suffered power outages due to surging demand. The Southwest Power Pool told its members across 14 states to begin controlled outages as demand exceeded supply. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas declared an "energy emergency alert three" after the grid experienced a systemwide failure because the extreme winter weather forced generating units to trip and go offline. Regional utilities experienced outages that lasted for hours. This is what a climate-related risk looks like if you are a utility company or grid operator.

Ontario Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) are fortunately investing in grid hardening initiatives such as pole replacement, strengthening and burying power lines, technologies like synchophasors, and operational strategies like load shedding. But efforts intended merely to harden infrastructure are not enough—the grid also needs to be resilient. Making the power distribution system more resilient starts with design changes, greater utilization of smart grid technology, and deployment of distributed generation resources and microgrids.  While LDCs have made great strides on the first two actions, there are many DER opportunities waiting to be seized. 

The John Paul II Microgrid in London, for example, supports the grid by providing several ancillary functions including frequency and voltage support, congestion management, and peak shaving. London Hydro, Hydro One, and the IESO can monitor and call on this system for grid services when necessary without interrupting energy needs at the school. Using Ameresco’s energy storage-as-a-service option enabled the London District Catholic School Board to obtain this carbon-free microgrid without any capital outlay or requirement to take on debt. By leveraging private finance models like this, progressive LDCs can gain experience with this technology, making their grid more resilient, and being able to experiment with new business models.

For more information, contact Scott Vokey, Director Asset Solutions Strategy + Outreach, Ameresco, at svokey@ameresco.com.