Book Online or Call 1-855-SAUSALITO

Sign In  |  Register  |  About Sausalito  |  Contact Us

Sausalito, CA
September 01, 2020 1:41pm
7-Day Forecast | Traffic
  • Search Hotels in Sausalito

  • ROOMS:

FERC Commissioner Allison Clements on record heat, resiliency, and smart grids

On the Factor This! podcast, FERC Commissioner Allison Clements says it's past time that the U.S. invest in a grid that is prepared for more frequent and extreme weather events.
Follow @EngelsAngle

Episode 16 of the Factor This! podcast featuring FERC Commissioner Allison Clements will be available on Monday, Sept. 12 wherever you get your podcasts. This episode of Factor This! is sponsored by Nextracker, the industry’s most advanced smart solar tracking system. Scroll down to see how Nextracker ramped up 10 GW of domestic manufacturing capacity to better serve project developers.

As Labor Day weekend came to a close, a sense of dread settled in at the home of Allison Clements, who was appointed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2020.

On the cusp of entering fifth grade, Clements' daughter was tasked with completing a homework assignment over the summer break.

"We didn't look at the packet," Clements said. "You figure, you sit down after dinner a couple of nights and get it done. But, of course, we waited until Labor Day weekend. So, we spent the whole weekend — six hours a day — making her focus on math homework."

Upgrading the U.S. electric grid is akin to the nation's own summer homework, Clements said on a recent episode of the Factor This! podcast. And Labor Day weekend has long since passed as an opportunity to complete catch-up work. The grid that was built 85 years ago is not suited to deal with the rigors of today's extreme weather events and multiple forms of non-traditional generation.

Subscribe today to the all-new Factor This! podcast from Renewable Energy World. This podcast is designed specifically for the solar industry and is available wherever you get your podcasts.

Listen to the latest episode featuring Leyline Renewable Capital CEO Erik Lensch, who shares tips for clean energy developers seeking capital in the wake of the Inflation Reduction Act.

In early September, for example, California's strained grid was tested by record, triple-digit heat and resource shortfalls. California consumers welcomed the end of a summer season that featured repeated emergency calls to conserve electricity with yet another directive from the grid operator.

California's travails are the new normal, Clements said. And it's past time that the U.S. invested in a grid prepared for more frequent and extreme weather events.

"Yesterday was the best time to start planning," Clements said. "Right now is the second best time."

FERC has embarked on what some observers have deemed the "most aggressive agenda" in modern history.

Proposed reforms to transmission planning and generator interconnection have the potential to bring the U.S. far closer to the grid of the future that Clements says is needed now.

For background on FERC's transmission and interconnection reform proposals, listen to Episode 9 of Factor This! with Advanced Energy Economy Managing Director Jeff Dennis:

While new poles and wires are vitally important to improving and expanding the grid, Clements has become a champion on the Commission for maximizing existing infrastructure, as well.

Grid-enhancing technologies (GETs), such as dynamic line ratings, advanced power flow control, and topology optimization, have the potential to more intelligently move power on the grid and improve the accuracy of available capacity on transmission lines.

This is no minor enhancement, either. GETs could double the amount of renewables that could be added to the grid nationally without building any new large-scale transmission lines, according to a recent study by the Brattle Group.

GETs don't replace the need for new transmission infrastructure. But they are a "right now" solution to expanding available capacity for clean energy sources that make up the vast majority of interconnection application backlogs.

Clements says she's a supporter of GETs and demand-side resources "because they're cheaper and faster" than new transmission in the near term.

FERC Commissioner Allison Clements

"The analogy (for GETs) is like setting the highway speed at 40 MPH all year round just because you know it's going to snow a few days in February," Clements said, explaining the conservative static line rating. "You could go 70 MPH in April, May, June, and July. But because we know come February we need to go 40 MPH, we make the rule 40 MPH all year round."

Clements knows there is no silver bullet to solving the grid's problems. While GETs present positive opportunities to increase interconnection capacities and enhance transmission planning processes, there is still a long road ahead before these tools are likely to be deployed at scale.

Transmission owners have little financial incentive to incorporate GETs into existing infrastructure. At a few hundred thousand dollars to install, GETs don't add nearly as much to the rate base as a $50 million dollar transmission line.

This "misaligned incentive problem," as Clements calls it, may not be as big of an issue anymore, however. Utilities can rest assured that "the big stuff" still has to get built.

FERC can help, too, by establishing rules that require or facilitate the uptake of GETs, which are mentioned in both the transmission planning and interconnection reform efforts. The agency is taking industry feedback on whether to mandate dynamic line ratings.

"I think we're kind of getting to this precipice of a big moment for these technologies and for trying to also get some rules in place to help facilitate that," Clements said.

And that school homework assignment? Well, Clements never did clear up whether her daughter's project was finished before the start of the fall term.

What may be more certain is that Commissioner Clements is not about to let the grid procrastinate any longer.

About our sponsor:

Episode 16 of the Factor This! podcast is sponsored by Nextracker.

The Inflation Reduction Act is a game changer for American solar manufacturing.

But even before the landmark legislation passed, Nextracker was betting big on Made in America, ramping up 10 GW of domestic manufacturing capacity while others waited out the pandemic, supply chain constraints, and tariff risks.

With new factories in Corpus Christi, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh, Nextracker brought its world-leading tracking equipment to you, producing trackers from lower-carbon steel made here in the U.S.A. 

Learn more about Nextracker's effort to expand American manufacturing here. And check out Nextracker CEO Dan Shugar on a recent episode of Factor This! discussing the investments.

Nextracker, the industry’s most advanced smart solar tracking systems. 

Data & News supplied by
Stock quotes supplied by Barchart
Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes.
By accessing this page, you agree to the following
Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.
Photos copyright by Jay Graham Photographer
Copyright © 2010-2020 & California Media Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.