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 second appears below. Part one can be found here.
Virtual Peaker: How can utilities better think about their approaches to DERs and DER management?
Ani Backa, sonnen:
Utilities can map out DERs through their Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs). This affords them a long outlook (10-20 years), and they have no excuse not to include DERs inclusive of behind-the-meter (BTM) storage in their plans.
Often, they are required to do so through their regulatory constructs. Utilities sit in the best position to understand both their customers, their investors, and the market levers.
Investors can play a significant role in utility decision making. Xcel Energy selling back the combined cycle gas plant it purchased just months earlier due to investor demand is a perfect example of how investors can wield influence in the penetration of renewables in the utility landscape.
From a DER management perspective, utilities ought to embrace proven technologies and platforms such as Virtual Peaker and the sonnen eServices virtual power plant (VPP) platform to assist in the management of DER already in their territories. Many utilities already do, and this is a step in the right direction.
I believe that third-party management of DER assets is not only cost effective for ratepayers—it also ensures that the most advanced, proven technologies from companies whose mission is innovation, get deployed.
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.