MISO and ARPA-E in 3D and the Open Access Revolution

August 17, 2018

MISO and ARPA-E recently cohosted the 2018 Market Symposium.

Travis Rouillard discusses how market changes are helping drive acceptance of open technologies.

This week, GridBright participated in the 2018 MISO Market Symposium held in Indianapolis. MISO is the Mid-Continental Independent System Operator, a non-for-profit, member-based organization that runs North America’s largest transmission and energy market across 15 states and parts of Canada.

Every year MISO holds their Market Symposium to learn and share ideas with market participants (regional utilities, retailers, generators) and industry thought leaders (regulators, vendors, labs, researchers). This year’s event was titled “Energy Markets in 3D” and focused on discussing how Digitization, Demarginalization, and Decentralization are shaping the future of energy markets.

Digitization is the impact of steady advances in computing and communications technology. These advances are allowing markets to be more efficient at producing more optimal solutions through the creation of new algorithms which leverage better digital models and telemetry data.
Demarginalization is the goal of reducing energy losses, transaction costs, and other market inefficiencies. All system operators struggle with the dual mandate of balancing economic efficiency with system reliability, which often results in sacrificing the best marginal energy price for a solution which has better n-1 security.

The majority of participant discussion was really on Decentralization – specifically the ever-increasing impact of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) on the industry and the potential ramifications (and opportunities) for transmission and energy markets. At face value, DERs are a disruptive threat to markets, as energy produced and consumed by consumers on the grid edge has almost zero marginal cost and no need for transmission services or bulk power supply. However, MISO clearly sees an increasing role for themselves in a high penetration future, as inter-regional energy balancing and coordination of DER provided ancillary services become more important.

A key takeaway from the event was the increasing industry conversation about the benefits of ‘open access’ technologies – open communication protocols, open data exchanges, open research publication, and open software solutions. This is natural to some extent as the energy value chain becomes multi-directional, and everybody recognizes the increasing need to communicate more openly with everyone else to produce more efficient market outcomes. But it also highlights that the industry incumbents are acknowledging the scope, magnitude, and speed of the change that is coming. We will need entirely new approaches and algorithms for grid efficiency, reliability, and resiliency in a highly decentralized energy world. Open access to prior research, algorithms, and data can help accelerate the pace of new solutions by reducing the learning curve and lowering the barriers to entry for more advanced research and development. The industry is starting to embrace this open access approach and is now encouraging vendors to work more openly with the research community and develop more open source software solutions.

The MISO Symposium was co-sponsored with ARPA-E (the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy within the US Department of Energy) who fund early stage Research and Development (R&D). ARPA-E has shown a preference for open access R&D and utility-lab-vendor collaboration projects, as a matter of public interest and community benefit. ARPA-E invited some of their project teams working on ‘3D’ issues to showcase their latest solutions, which is how GridBright got invited. We presented our BetterGrids Repository solution, a free repository of open source network models, test data, and software for the grid research community. Conference attendees were universally supportive of the concept, and many had their own personal stories to tell about the historical difficulty of getting realistic grid data models to build and test new ideas. Often, this activity can consume as much as 1/3 of total project time and budget.

MISO and their stakeholders seem interested in getting more of their transmission models and market data into open access for the community. BetterGrids, working with other ARPA-E projects, will seek to make this a reality over the coming months.

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