That’s according to a new study from Accenture, in which 95 per cent of utilities agreed that the deployment of distributed generation technologies like rooftop solar is increasing faster than utilities can build new grid capacity to handle it in high-demand areas.
The proportion of both residential and commercial consumers with rooftop solar PV in the markets modelled in the report could exceed 15 per cent by 2036 in some parts of the world, such as California in the US.
And Accenture says that this trend is likely to continue to affect net electricity demand growth for the foreseeable future.
“Distribution businesses have had a tough time in recent years with weak demand, which is one reason why grid operators’ profits have been squeezed,” said Stephanie Jamison, a managing director at Accenture who leads its Transmission and Distribution business.
“The proliferation of distributed generation changes electricity demand profiles, potentially diminishing total demand without necessarily reducing peak demand. Successful distributed generation integration will require substantial investments in new connections and grid reinforcement to modernise the network and sustain the same level of reliability and safety and secure operations.”
The study surveyed 150 executives across 25 countries as part of Accenture’s Digitally Enabled Grid research programme.
It found that increased deployment of distributed generation will “complicate utilities’ operations, requiring distribution utilities to act now to avoid the excessive grid-reinforcement spending required to host new distributed generation energy flows”.
Indeed, distributed generation integration was ranked as the second-highest priority area as a cost-saving opportunity, selected by 59 per cent of respondents as one of their top five choices.
The top priority, chosen by 61 per cent of respondents, was reducing supply chain unit costs through improved forecasting of materials and service requirements.