IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - September/October 2016 - 12

guest editorial

Julio Romero Agüero

electric industry's quest
the utility and grid of the future

T

The elecTric uTiliTy indus-
try is in the middle of an unprecedented
evolution driven by the emergence and
growing adoption of transformational or
"disruptive" technologies. specifically,
the coming of age of renewable genera-
tion technologies, particularly wind and
solar photovoltaics, the proliferation of
distributed generation, the emergence
of the "prosumer" figure, and the po-
tential for load and grid defection, have
shaken the foundations of the electric
utility business. This has also triggered
a chain reaction of changes that initially
encompassed purely technical aspects
and, more recently and in the years to
come, are expected to have potentially
significant business, regulatory, and
policy implications.
The utility and grid of the future
are expected to be much more dy-
namic and active, rapidly evolving,
heterogeneous, and customer-centric.
some versions of the utility of the fu-
ture are likely to be very progressive,
such as achieving a highly distributed
grid model with transactive energy, in-
terconnected macro- and microgrids,
and pervasive self-supply and prosum-
ers. Although this vision has business
potential, it is necessary to recognize
that the challenges associated with its
implementation and related technolo-
gy, regulatory, and policy implications
could be monumental. Therefore, this
model may emerge in the form of re-
gional clusters, in areas where it could
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2016.2579299
Date of publication: 17 August 2016

12

ieee power & energy magazine

represent a suitable alternative for cus-
tomers and society in general. Other
versions of the utility of the future are
likely to rely on a hybrid model, with
resilient and modern transmission grids
serving as robust backbones to highly
dynamic, active, and largely intercon-
nected distribution grids.
regardless of the model, the evi-
dence of the last decade is convincing
and indicates that the industry is mov-
ing into new and, to a certain extent,
unexplored territory. examples include
recent renewable energy milestones
such as those observed this year:
✔ in Portugal, where the entire
country operated on renewable
energy alone for four consecutive
days, 107 hours, from 6:45 a.m.
on saturday, 7 May, until 5:45 p.m.
on Wednesday, 11 May
✔ in Germany, where renewable re-
sources, mainly wind, solar, hydro,
and biomass, supplied 45.5  GW
of a total demand of 45.8 GW at
2  p.m. on 15 May, turning elec-
tricity prices negative during sev-
eral 15-min periods to as low as
-50 €/MWh.
utilities in the united states are
closely watching and learning from the
experiences of their european coun-
terparts and are leading important
transformational initiatives. examples
include the following:
✔ the introduction of the reform-
ing the energy Vision (reV)
initiative in new york
✔ the approval by the california
Public utility commission  of

the mandate requesting the state's
investor-owned utilities, Pacific
Gas and electric, southern cali-
fornia edison, and san diego Gas
and electric, to deploy 1.3 GW of
energy storage
✔ comed's microgrid pilot pro-
gram, aimed at investing up to
us$250 million over five years
to build five utility microgrids in
the Bronzeville community on
chicago's south side, the illi-
nois Medical district in chicago,
the duPage county government
complex, the chicago heights
water pumping and treatment
facility, and rockford interna-
tional Airport.
These examples show that the utili-
ty industry, which was once considered
a conservative and relatively steady en-
tity, is now evolving at a very fast pace.
This change certainly has pros and
cons. On the positive side, for instance,
it is revitalizing the industry, attracting
young talent with tremendous poten-
tial (encouraged by the emergence and
convergence of the "grid of things,"
renewable energies, and fashionable
technologies such as energy storage,
and electric vehicles) at a time when it
is needed the most, given the imminent
generational change and loss of exper-
tise prompted by the retirement of the
baby boomer generation. On the down-
side, the fast pace, continuous change,
and myriad technology and business
options are a risk management chal-
lenge for decision makers, regulators,
and end users.
september/october 2016



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - September/October 2016

IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - September/October 2016 - Cover1
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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - September/October 2016 - Cover3
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