Non-Wires Alternatives Present Creative Solutions for Utilities

In an article for Utility Dive, Navigant Research says this latest trend bucks traditional T&D upgrades, using alternative methods to meet system needs

Earlier this year, Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) announced plans to mitigate congestion on its transmission grid in a new way — one that doesn’t involve poles or wires. In an article for Utility Dive, Brett Feldman, principal research analyst at Navigant Research, says BPA is now part of a growing number of utilities and grid operators taking advantage of non-wires alternatives (NWAs), or non-traditional T&D solutions to defer or replace the need for specific equipment upgrades by reducing load at a substation or circuit level.

These types of creative solutions, such as distributed generation, energy storage, energy efficiency demand response, and grid software and controls, can address infrastructure needs at a lower cost with higher customer and environmental benefits as grid management, Feldman said. However, he noted that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution for projects. Feldman said methods will depend on the utility’s internal structure and capabilities along with the regulatory construct in which it operates. In addition, no standard business models or procurement processes for utilities to implement NWAs have been established.

“[NWAs are] likely to become more common in U.S. utility capital planning processes and regulatory requirements in many state jurisdictions,” Feldman said. “It is an exciting yet anxiety inducing opportunity to change the way utilities address system and customer needs simultaneously. The sooner the industry faces this new reality, the better prepared all parties can be to ensure it succeeds.”

For more information on this topic, check out Navigant Research’s report, Non-Wires Alternatives.

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