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Portland General Electric: smart grid investments

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11/17/2017 | 03:33pm CET

PGE proposes five new energy storage projects that will help integrate clean, variable energy


The need for storage is critical if renewable energy is to be viable on a large scale - and PGE's working on that, with big plans for Portland's future smart grid.

Portland General Electric filed a proposal with the Oregon Public Utility Commission outlining the development of up to 39 megawatts of energy storage in its service area, with five energy storage facility proposals.

The proposal calls for investing between $50 million and $100 million in energy storage projects that will help integrate renewables onto the grid, improve the region's energy resilience and inform future investment in energy storage.

A huge part of the proposal is to use five different strategies to see how the new technology can work best for the region.

This comes after PGE worked with legislators and groups of stakeholders in 2015 to create an energy storage mandate that the Oregon State Legislature passed into law, requiring PGE to procure at least 5 megawatt hours - and up to 1 percent of PGE's peak load in 2014 (38.7 MW) - of energy storage by 2020.

In 2016, the Oregon Clean Electricity and coal transition plan passed, which set a firm deadline of 2035 to remove all coal-fired generation from Oregon's system.

The Legislature doubled Oregon's renewable portfolio standard, which requires PGE serve 50 percent of its customers from new, qualifying resources being brought online - mostly wind and solar - by 2020.

The five energy storage proposals include a variety of projects, such as a microgrid pilot, substation battery, integrated storage asset at the Baldock solar facility, residential PGE-controlled batteries and a hybrid plant storage device at PGE's Port Westward 2 facility.

The new storage proposals build on the findings from PGE's most recent and significant storage project, the Salem Smart Power Center, an 8,000 square foot facility completed in 2013. It was developed by PGE and partners as part of the largest regional smart grid demonstration project in the nation at the time - the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

The recent storage filing is also central to the company's push for a decarbonized electric system and cleaner energy. Last year, more than 40 percent of the energy PGE delivered was from carbon-free sources. By 2040, PGE expects approximately 70 percent of the energy it delivers to all customers will be carbon-free.

"PGE along with others have signed the 'We're still in (the Paris Accord)' pledge, recognizing that the current administration may have different thoughts, but in terms of what we at PGE are doing, that's not really changed," said Steve Corson, PGE external communications. "The kinds

of things I've been talking about here - clean electricity and the coal transition plan we worked on last year, and the decision to end the use of coal at our Boardman plant as of 2020 - those are all the result of local agreements with our stakeholders and regulators here in Oregon."

Choice investments

Corson told the Business Tribune there are many different ways storage can contribute to the reliability and flexibility of Portland's system as PGE builds a smarter and cleaner grid.

"We learned a lot from (the Salem Smart Power Center), but we want to get a better sense of how storage can contribute in different ways, so that's where you see the proposal here to combine storage with one of our existing generating facilities, where you have storage located at a substation, storage located with a customer and then residential storage," Corson said. "Each of these different aspects and configurations of storage promise different benefits for the systems, and we want to learn more about that at the same time as we're taking advantage of the potential they bring to the system."

A D V E R T I S I N G | Continue reading below

PGE expects to learn more about the positives and negatives of each system as it tries them out, aiming to find one particular type of storage that proves to be especially effective in PGE's grid.

"A lot of things are coming together right now in terms of technological developments that are going to affect how we operate the grid," Corson said. "Integrating more renewable power into our system and recognizing that the biggest options we have for renewable power are also variable - wind and solar - where they are available to us when the wind is blowing and when the sun is shining, and not when those resources aren't available."

The variable powers create peaks and valleys in terms of energy production. California, for instance, is seeing solar power significantly exceed their needs during certain parts of the day.

"If you don't have storage, then that limits your ability to take advantage of those resources because you can't save the extra power being generated at non-peak times," Corson said.

Storage is key to integrating those kinds of variable resources into our system, and also helps with shaving demand and reducing the need for peaking resources.

"Traditionally, peaking power plants are really only used during peak demand periods, in certain times of the day when you have peak demand in the morning and evening in our case, or in extreme weather events - hot or cold - people are using more power," Corson said. "You have plants that may be not necessarily as efficient, but can be brought online quickly."

Storage has the potential to allow the grid to draw on it at peak periods, rather than having to turn on a new power plant.

"That's always been a source of some frustration in the industry, in that you have to build a power plant that you're explicitly hoping not to use very much, and that's intuitively not really the most effective way to make your investments," Corson said.

Old grid, new grid

A D V E R T I S I N G | Continue reading below

Storage isn't exclusive to clean energy once it's online, although that's the type of variable energy that really needs it to be useful on a large scale.

It's what our futuristic Sim City Portland will look like with its new smart grid.

"I've started calling it the classic grid, the grid of a generation before. The classic grid was a one-way tool," Corson said.

A decade ago, that was the only grid.

"A big power plant is usually located outside the population center. You have transmission lines to bring it into the population, then a distribution system wires that bring it to houses," Corson said. "As we look to the future, we're in the process of building a much more flexible and two-way system."

For example, if a residence has solar panels on the roof, PGE has a metering system that can run in both directions already in operation.

"If you're using more power than your solar panels are generating, then you're able to draw on the grid and bring in power from PGE to augment your solar system," Corson said. "If on the other hand you're not home and your appliances aren't running, they (the solar array) might be producing more power than your home is using, and your meter runs the other direction. You're feeding that power back onto the grid to help the neighborhood."

Self-sufficient people will still be interested in being part of the grid, because they can draw on it for additional power or essentially sell excess power back onto it.

"We're going to see more of that kind of thing with distributed energy resources.

A D V E R T I S I N G | Continue reading below

Rather than central station power plants, you have solar panels on people's roofs, you have maybe a co-generation facility at municipal waste plants, you have standby generators

at hospitals and banks and national guard

bases - other kinds of facilities that need to have backup power are also contributing to

the grid."

Future uses

"It's an exciting era, there's a lot of change coming down the pipe, a lot of debate within the industry and among regulators and stakeholders as to exactly how we do all of this," Corson said. "There's not a set path, it's a new and different world, but things like this storage proposal are part of our strategy to adapt and evolve the system in order to try and keep the benefits we've all enjoyed from the electric grid and power system of having reliable and affordable electric power."

But, PGE wants to move to a cleaner system: particularly a low- or no-carbon system that doesn't contribute to global warming.

"As we transition to electric vehicles and systems, we can help that system decarbonize as well," Corson said. "All those electrical vehicles, as there are more and more, are also little mobile batteries wandering around the system and contribute a storage function to the system as well."

For instance, someone could have a battery in their garage or somewhere around the house, and be participating in storage.

A D V E R T I S I N G | Continue reading below

"That won't necessarily change how you use electricity or how the system works for you, but makes you a participant in the grid

in a way you weren't before," Corson said. "The grid becomes more a partnership with the utility rather than a service delivered by the utility."

By Jules Rogers

Reporter, The Business Tribune


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Energy Imbalance Market

PGE is working on a another different technology program, but it's all tied together in terms of a smarter, greener grid.

PGE is officially the fifth organization to sign on to the western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM).

PGE joined the EIM as of Oct. 1, after two years of prepping that included training 400 PGE employees whose jobs are changing as a result of participating in the EIM, to manage technology.

The IEM allows PGE to share resources and provides for automated dispatch of energy resources throughout a six-state area. Utilities in California, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona are also participants.

"We're only the fifth, but we weren't the first, other utilities had gone before us, we had gone through a pretty extensive process of reviewing our options recognizing these kind of integrate markets are beneficial to the point of being necessary as you build a smarter grid with these new technologies and variable energy resources," Corson said. "Smart grid options demand response, and an integrated market becomes more valuable."

A D V E R T I S I N G | Continue reading below

Now, PGE can draw on renewable power from California, Washington and other participating states on the western grid at a low cost.

"Within PGE's balancing area, we have to make sure 24 hours a day the amount of electricity coming into the system is the same as what our customers are drawing out of the system - it has to be balanced," Corson said. "In the past, it was mostly done on an hourly basis. Power operations folks would forecast what here's what we think customers need over the next house, and here's what resources we have available to meet that need with turning on hydro plants or whatever. We also go out to wholesale market, using whatever's cheaper."

Sometimes, PGE would sell on the wholesale market if it could generate power cheaply and sell power we didn't need. This was all on the old classic grid from a decade ago, for the past century.

The new tech and advent of variable resources doesn't look on a hourly basis because the wind might drop off, for example, going from 400 megawatts to zero. The community needs a backup.

"The EIM lets us do that on a much more fine-tuned basis where we're making energy dispatch resources on the western grid in five to 15 minute intervals rather than the old one-hour interval," Corson said. "Because it's done on such a short time frame, it's not rational for humans to manage the transaction."

Using the classic grid, PGE looked at generating its own revenue, looking at what's available on the wholesale market and deciding how much it costs to generate power depending on the cost of natural gas. For example, California is now producing a lot more solar energy than it can consume, so it needs to send the power somewhere and will sell it to Oregon on the cheap.

"But with older technologies it wasn't always possible to take advantage of those kinds of things - not just California solar, but Canadian power plants, or utilities in Arizona, are in a position to offer excess power onto the grid at a low price, where it would be cheaper than we could generate ourselves at that given time here in Oregon," Corson said. "With the EIM, what it does is tie all of us into an integrated system where our power operations can talk to Arizona's public services, or utilities in California or Washington, and identify within those five and 15 minute increments what the cheapest resource out there is."

PGE's still in the very early stages of participation in the EIM.

"We don't have a particular number to point to at this point," Corson said. "What we may see in terms of carbon reductions, both benefits we anticipate over the long term, but more to the point it's one of the steps we're taking to make our system cleaner and greener and more flexible, while at the same time preserving that reliability and affordability."

© Copyright © 2017 Portland Tribune, All rights reserved., source Newspapers

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Financials ($)
Sales 2017 2 026 M
EBIT 2017 373 M
Net income 2017 201 M
Debt 2017 2 383 M
Yield 2017 2,73%
P/E ratio 2017 21,80
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EV / Sales 2017 3,33x
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Spread / Average Target -7,7%
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Jack E. Davis Chairman
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