The Power of Coordinated Energy Resources

August 20, 2021

As the peak of hurricane season in North Carolina approaches, Union Power remains focused on grid resiliency and preparedness efforts. This year-round effort to limit power outages and recover quickly from those that do occur includes conventional efforts like tree-trimming to keep limbs away from power lines, as well as more modern efforts that incorporate advanced technologies and support our commitment to power a brighter local future.

As technology evolves, we see new energy assets added throughout the electric system in households, businesses, substations, and elsewhere – often called “distributed energy resources” – as an exciting opportunity. These resources can be large enough to power several homes, like a microgrid or utility-scale solar farm, or as small as a smart thermostat inside your home. By working with electric cooperatives statewide and other partners, Union Power is exploring opportunities to add flexible local resources to our energy toolbox and coordinate them to work together across the grid at scale. By integrating and synchronizing these assets, we can maximize the benefits to the grid and all cooperative members.

Resilience is one important benefit. Integrating grid resources closer to homes and communities provides local power options while also diversifying the resources we can call on to provide power. Statewide electric cooperatives have integrated five microgrids that can power local areas when needed and also support the grid as a whole. While new resources support resiliency, we are proud that the grid today is already very reliable. Our reliability rate is 99.9%, and we will continue working to maintain and improve reliability and resiliency even further.

Coordinating distributed energy resources also supports our sustainability goals. Take solar power: It can present a challenge because it is only available when the sun is shining, but our members need reliable power all the time. By pairing solar generation with flexible resources such as batteries, Union Power and our power supplier can make intermittent generation sources into stronger grid assets while also increasing sustainability.

Managing costs to keep them as low as possible is always part of Union Power’s mission. As prices for new energy resources are coming down, the economics for implementation is improving. And, by deploying distributed resources in a coordinated way, Union Power can use the grid more efficiently and better manage energy flows. This helps us save, not only by reducing demand for power when energy consumption peaks and wholesale electricity is most expensive, but also by delaying or even avoiding the need to invest in expensive new infrastructure, like substations. Because cooperatives like Union Power are not-for-profit and provide power at cost, savings directly benefit co-op members.

These technologies also have created opportunities for our members, like you, to partner with us to achieve shared value.

By adopting proven technologies and deploying distributed resources at scale, Union Power can provide many benefits to members: added resilience, enhanced sustainability through renewable generation, optimization of the grid, cost savings, and new services for members, to name a few. We see these benefits compounding over time, especially as more of our members, from large commercial businesses to residents interested in a smart thermostat, decide to participate with us in building the grid of the future.

This storm season and beyond, as part of our Brighter Future vision, you can count on Union Power to continue to take steps to enhance grid resiliency and deploy resources that bring real benefits to members.