Black & Veatch and SEPA examine impact of DER on utility planning

Planning the Distributed Energy Future,” a new white paper from Black & Veatch and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) profiles emerging utility planning practices at five large U.S. utilities to accommodate distributed energy resources (DERs), including demand response technologies and electric vehicles. Black & Veatch is a member of the International District Energy Association (IDEA).

Click image to download the white paper.

Click image to download the white paper.

The market landscape for electric utilities in the United States is shifting dramatically toward a future with much higher penetrations of distributed energy resources (DERs), including solar, storage and other distributed energy technologies. The traditional distribution system planning framework is no longer sufficient to ensure grid reliability in an era of increasing DER penetration, and a new framework is emerging among utilities seeking to proactively plan for DER integration.

To understand how utility planning is changing, Black & Veatch and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) interviewed five leading utilities across the United States and identified trends in utility planning practices. The white paper describes these practices as well as a detailed framework for a proactive DER planning process, which includes load and DER forecasting, dynamic distribution- and transmission-level grid modeling, rate and regulatory analysis, and changes in overall utility strategy and operations. Implementing a proactive planning process will enable utilities to minimize the risks and seize the opportunities associated with the distributed energy future.

“A growing number of utilities recognize that increased DER penetration will significantly affect the grid,” said Robert Brnilovich, Vice President of Black & Veatch’s Management Consulting business.  “Black & Veatch is working with utilities to rethink their approach to planning. The five-step process outlined in the paper will allow utilities to plan for and act on the growth of distributed technologies.”

The new planning model involves:

  • Modeling distribution grid impacts of DERs
  • Incorporating regulatory and rate changes into the planning process
  • Formulating a business strategy toward DER integration—including any changes to utility operations and organizational structures

“What we see in the field – and this report confirms – is that utilities need to have a deep understanding not only of new distributed technologies, but of their customers’ evolving interests and expectations. Successful planning involves a fine balance of both,” said Julia Hamm, President and CEO of SEPA. “The mix of distributed resources will vary between regions and utilities. The integrated approach in this report can help a broad range of stakeholders unlock the opportunities these technologies offer to develop new products and services that benefit customers and the grid.”

The paper finds that proactive planning has benefits for utilities facing increased DER penetration. It can enable electric utilities to streamline DER deployment and maintain high reliability. They may also be able to take advantage of new opportunities tied to market change.


  • Planning the Distributed Energy Future is available for download here.
  • DER technologies covered in this whitepaper are solar photovoltaics (PV), non-solar distributed generation (DG), energy storage (ES), electric vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure, demand response (DR), combined heat and power (CHP) and energy efficiency (EE).

About Black & Veatch
Black & Veatch is an employee-owned, global leader in building critical human infrastructure in Energy, Water, Telecommunications and Government Services. Since 1915, we have helped our clients improve the lives of people in over 100 countries through consulting, engineering, construction, operations and program management. Our revenues in 2014 were US$3 billion. Follow us on and in social media.

About SEPA
SEPA is an educational nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC, dedicated to enabling the transition to a clean energy economy by facilitating utility integration and deployment of solar, distributed energy resources, and supporting technologies onto the grid. SEPA is the founder and co-organizer of Solar Power International, the nation’s largest solar energy conference and trade show. SEPA provides a range of reports, educational events, networking opportunities and advisory consulting services to its members.

About IDEA Industry News

EDITOR: Leonard Phillips, IDEA Director of Business Development, International District Energy Association (IDEA), a nonprofit association founded in 1909.; +1 508-366-9339.
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