Grid Stability Critical For Reliability
St Lucia Electricity Services (LUCELEC) prides itself on providing a reliable and efficient service to its customers. We work hard and have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure that every time a customer turns on a light switch, electricity comes on and is there to power personal and professional lives. To do so LUCELEC has to maintain the integrity of its grid which comprises the generators, transmission and distribution network (the poles, lines and transformers), including substations that facilitate the movement of electricity from our power plants to customers’ homes and businesses. The LUCELEC grid is not a public but a private electrical network. Every part of the electrical infrastructure you see (including poles, wires and transformers) is part of that grid, and grid support and stability is a key part of our business. The LUCELEC grid currently handles electricity produced by LUCELEC in the main, and a very small percentage (0.08%) of electricity generated by grid-tied photovoltaic or solar PV systems (that is electricity from customers who have installed solar systems to power their homes or businesses and are connected to the LUCELEC distribution network). Under the proposed new regulatory framework, Independent Power Producers (IPPs) will be granted licenses to generate electricity from renewable sources. The electricity from these IPPs will need to be transported via the LUCELEC transmission and distribution network to customers because under the new regulatory framework, LUCELEC will remain the sole transmitter and distributor of electricity. One of the core responsibilities LUCELEC has with its grid is to ensure enough electricity is generated to meet the needs of all customers at any point in time. This is a balance that requires expert knowledge both of customer usage and available generation. As the major supplier to the grid, LUCELEC has learnt and has full control of this delicate balancing act. With the introduction of independent power producers into the mix of available generation (electricity), this balancing act becomes more complex. Further, intermittent renewable energy systems like wind and solar introduce additional complexities. Why? Because the amount of electricity being generated from these systems can change in an instant depending on how the wind blows or on cloud coverage affecting how much sunlight is getting to the solar panels. This is very different from the current arrangements where LUCELEC has control over how much electricity is produced from its diesel engines at any given time. Other non-intermittent type generation of electricity would include geothermal energy that provides a certain “guaranteed” amount of electricity. Under the new regulatory arrangements, it is critical to ensure that the electricity coming from all the various sources into the transmission and distribution network can be delicately balanced to ensure that the entire grid remains stable, and that there are not sudden and frequent variances in the electricity supplied to customers. That, in layman’s terms, is what is meant by grid stability. In moving into the new regulatory framework, it will be necessary to be clear about the optimum mix of intermittent generation and base-load geothermal energy that the electricity system can accommodate while maintaining the stability of the grid and the reliability of the supply of electricity to customers. It will require the development of an integrated resource plan that would identify what types of renewable energy technologies that could be integrated with fossil fuel technologies and possible future technologies into the grid. LUCELEC is currently undertaking studies in that regard with the assistance of the Carbon War Room that will inform this integrated resource plan. Comments or questions associated with this article or about LUCELEC in general are welcomed. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 457-4400. You can also visit our website at www.lucelec.com for additional information.