July 27, 2017

Electric Metrics: First-Year Report Describes Metrics to Measure Grid Changes

Key metrics will address six important characteristics for operating the nation's power grid

In year 1, researchers focused on developing and defining metrics as well as methodologies for applying the metrics.

A recently published report is bringing the electricity industry one step closer to determining how their investments might impact future power grid performance.

The report, “Grid Modernization: Metrics Analysis (GMLC 1.1)(Offsite link),” summarizes the identification, development and description of key metrics that will help the industry measure change as the power grid evolves. These metrics address six of the characteristics important to operating the grid—reliability, resilience, flexibility, sustainability, affordability, and security.

Years 2 and 3 will focus on testing, dissemination, and institutionalizing the metrics at a national scale.

The report outlines the first year of progress in the three-year project, “Foundational Metrics Analysis(Offsite link),” one of 30 high-level projects stewarded by the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium(Offsite link) (GMLC) under the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative(Offsite link). It was developed by grid experts from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who manages the Metrics Analysis project; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who co-leads the project; plus collaborators from Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories.

Findings Reveal “Cool” Possibilities

Growing digitalization of the grid that enables customers’ interactions with end-use devices—as well as the rising penetration of energy resources such as solar and wind power are challenging the nation’s power grid. As part of the GMLC, experts across the national laboratory system and industry are partnering to modernize the grid to ensure reliable delivery of electricity to the millions of consumers across the U.S. But electricity industry stakeholders—including utilities, regulators, and state governments—do not have consistent means to capture the current state of the grid by multiple measures or measure progress of modernization efforts.

Making Metrics Meaningful

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, its national laboratory partners, and industry—including North American Electricity Reliability Corporation, Electric Power Research Institute, and American Public Power Association—are collaborating in each of the six metric areas to identify industry needs and potential use of metrics, as well as to define and validate the metrics to make sure they are useful for stakeholders. The following outcomes were achieved during the first year of collaboration and are outlined in the report.

  • Reliability. The team found that improvements to reliability metric designs are needed to better link metrics to the value of reliability—such as costs to the consumer and utilities when power is interrupted. The team is assessing which types of customers have experienced a power interruption and for how long in order to understand the economic costs that power interruptions impose on them. This will result in new metrics that enable direct consideration of costs to customers that support distribution system planning and operation.
  • Resilience. The project developed a set of metrics to help utilities better plan for and respond to low-probability, high-consequence disruptive events—such as a major storm—as well as provide effective means for utilities and regulators to communicate about resilience issues.
  • Flexibility. Twenty-three potential flexibility metrics were identified that can be used in planning models to estimate flexibility requirements; these include loss of load, price spikes, volatility of wind and solar generation, and available energy storage. The team also developed a process to identify the top two or three key metrics from this list.
  • Sustainability. The team compared differences among eight federal electric sector greenhouse gas data products and evaluated how greenhouse gas metrics and reporting procedures may need to be modified to assess changes in environmental sustainability as the grid evolves. They noted that none of these data products can fully allocate the electric sector portion of carbon dioxide emissions from several growing energy sources, such as biopower, energy storage, and combined heat and power. The team is developing recommendations with the data product owners to improve the ability to capture carbon dioxide emissions from the electric sector in the future.
  • Affordability. The team focused on cost burden to the residential customer and the proportion of electricity costs to a household’s income, and defined six metrics that can be applied to the residential sector: household electricity burden, household electricity affordability gap, household electricity affordability gap index, household electricity affordability headcount index, annual average customer cost, and average customer cost index.
  • Security. During this first year, the project focused on physical security. The team’s proposed metrics process involves a survey instrument designed for utilities interested in understanding their physical posture. The utilities may then use the outcomes of the surveys to assess and identify insufficiencies and how investments can improve their security posture.

By completion of this project in the third year, the team expects to have in place a decision-making framework that helps utilities, regulators, and others to evaluate tradeoffs across investment decisions using this rich set of grid metrics.

This work is funded by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

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About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.