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Distributed Energy Resources: Not Just Another Generation Source
Dec 1, 2018
3 minutes read

So Reposit let me out of the office this week to go and attend a bunch of events focused around distributed energy resources (DER). DER is electricity generation at the household level such as rooftop solar panels, and controllable devices like batteries, smart hot water and smart pool pumps. These devices can send and the receive energy from the electricity grid much like a large power plant, and when thousands of them work together they look very much like a power plant. A theme in all the events I attended this week is how will we effectively integrate DER, taking into account that there’s home owners attached to these devices, and how will we achieve benefits for everyone in the system.

Customer Workshop A customer centrict workshop as part of the Distributed Energy Integration Program. I’m in the far back right.

Normally for generation resources you’re like “oh hey I want to build a 100MW solar farm” and you find the land and get approval and maybe do a little bit of community engagement and then bam you’re producing electricity and selling into the market and signing PPAs and really just trying to catpure the most value for the electricity you’re generating. It’s pretty simple from that perspective. When the resources are instead in people’s homes there are many other factors to consider. These people may not want to just get the highest price for what they generate, they may have other values such as having energy reserved to power their home during a blackout, being as energy independent as possible or helping their community be more green. Further, even if they do want to purely maximise their return on investment, they may not want to spend the time to understand the intricacies of how the electricity market works, they just want a product that they can trust is working in their best interested.

The “controllable energy device” market (batteries, smart hot water, smart pool pumps, etc) is still in its infancy. We’re still figuring out how to speak to customers about it and what products and services to offer them. Apps for these devices look like engineering screens, retail electricity plans to take advantage of DER are just like normal retail plans with a little bit of extra DER spice added to them, on-boarding is clunky and ineffective. This isn’t a criticism, this is what you’d expect in any early market, but there are a lot of gains to be made here and I think one of the biggest opportunities of the DER revolution is solving the human side of it, so here’s my pitch:

If you are a product, UX, marketing, customer experience, etc person and are at all interested in working in the energy industry, you are much needed and will do very well here. Consider it like the Fintech industry 3 or 4 years ago, when they were still figuring out how to integrate new tools and products into the consumer finance market. Now when you look at Fintech you see these amazing on-boarding processes, simplified products that meet the customers’ needs and effective ways to market and educate consumers about these offerings. That same work still needs to be done in the new consumer electricity world too, and while many of us will be focused on solving the engineering side of this electrical challenge (most of us in the industry are electricity grid nerds), there will be a lot of clean air and value to be captured by you on the human side.

If you are one of these people then please feel free to get in touch! I’ll try to help where I can: mitchoneill@gmail.com or @mitch_oneill.



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