Virtual Peaker had the distinct pleasure to talk recently with Ani Backa, U.S. Director, Utilities, Regulatory, and Legislative Initiatives at Sonnen / eServices sonnen global, about the outlook for distributed energy resources.
Ani acknowledged that COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the landscape and that her responses are driven by two pandemic-related themes: uncertainty, and no end date.
Virtual Peaker’s discussion with Ani Backa is divided into five sections. The first appears below.
Virtual Peaker: What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities in the DER space?
Ani Backa, sonnen:
Before COVID-19, I would have pointed out that the biggest challenge in the DER space was an alignment of innovation with the regulatory and legislative constructs to ensure greater market penetration. That’s because the two seemed to be misaligned.
Now, the biggest challenge with DERs is a slowed-down world economy with its ripple effects on supply chain slowdown, and market upset—the unpredictable highs and lows in the market seem to grow increasingly more unpredictable—as well as consumer attrition due to social distancing.
From an implementation perspective, battery systems require the kind of permitting and inspection oversight that is not yet set up to be done entirely online. But there are opportunities in this space, especially when we look at battery storage as a resiliency COMPONENT of the utility IRP/grid at large.
An example here is the striking and concerning statistic from Con Ed when the company reported that more than 170 employees had COVID-19. With field workers unable to tend to the grid, residential battery storage provides a safe haven and mitigating tool in the event of power outages. (Though COVID-19 has pressed “pause” on many of our daily activities, it has not stopped weather or grid events from occurring.)
Additionally, we are all seeing the statistics regarding how environmental pollution is slowing down while we try to flatten the curve of the pandemic. DERs have an opportunity to step up in a major way as life resumes. Unlike COVID-19, DERs are here to stay. So, I believe the opportunities with battery storage right now are both in securing and cleaning the grid.
Ani Backa is the US Director of Regulatory Strategy and Utility Initiatives at sonnen, where she leads sonnen's US regulatory strategy and utility strategic partnerships. A senior renewable energy attorney by vocation, prior to joining sonnen, Ani managed business and government affairs for Xcel Energy, one of the largest and most progressive Investor Owned Utilities(IOUs) in the US. Ani's experience combines in-depth understanding of micro and macro market and technology applications in the residential arena, including residential battery storage advanced technologies such as sonnen, and to-market successful platforms and utility strategic partnerships.