Future of Electricity Production Could Be Closer to Home

By on November 7, 2017

From St. Louis Public Radio:  A conversation has been sparked in Missouri about how electricity will be generated, stored and consumed in the future.

The Missouri Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities, is looking for input on what are known as “distributed energy resources” and will hold a workshop later this month in Jefferson City. The Commission’s Staff Director Natelle Dietrich admits the term is a bit of a catch-all.

“Distributed Energy Resources are smaller energy sources, such as micro-grids, energy storage technologies, maybe small wind or solar development projects,” Dietrich said.

The term can encompass anything from batteries that store solar energy to advanced metering information that gives customers a better sense of when they’re using energy. But the biggest idea is in producing electricity closer to the consumer, creating “micro-grids” that could then be connected with a utility’s larger grid.

James Owen, the executive director of Renew Missouri, an organization pushing for more renewable energy, is glad the PSC is broaching the subject. He said distributed energy resources are a progressive concept.

“Missouri is not going to look at California and Colorado and say ‘we’re going to do that,’” he said with a laugh.

Still, he said change in the energy industry is on its way, even in Missouri. That’s because consumers are pushing for it.

“I think that’s what the marketplace is demanding,” Owen said. “You see a lot more customers saying I want to use solar; I want to be able to use wind. I want to have some more options, because I think this might be cheaper or I might have more control over this.”

St. Louis-based Ameren has more than one million customers in Missouri, and officials agree that they’re hearing more requests about renewable energy options. Steve Wills,  Ameren’s director of rates and analysis, said having one customer put solar panels on their roof isn’t a problem, but as renewables scale up, it gets more complicated for the utility.

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