Grid Sta­bil­ity Crit­i­cal For Re­li­a­bil­ity

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

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 con­nected@lucelec.com or call 457-4400. You can also visit our web­site at www.lucelec.com for ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion.

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