The Role of AESO and the Operating Reserve Program

Harnessing Alberta’s Energy Future: The Role of AESO and the Operating Reserve Program

Alberta’s electricity market is a dynamic landscape that requires balancing supply and demand with precision and foresight. At the heart of this system is the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), a not-for-profit entity mandated to operate an open and competitive wholesale market, ensure the safe and reliable operation of the electric system, and plan and develop the transmission system to provide access to customers​​.

 

Among many tools in the AESO’s “toolbelt” is the procurement of Operating Reserves (OR). This is a crucial mechanism that helps to maintain system reliability when there is an unexpected imbalance between supply and demand due to various system conditions.

 

In the AESO’s Operating Reserve (OR) framework, supplemental reserves are a critical component, providing a safety net for the electrical grid when demand outstrips supply or generation unexpectedly falls. Unlike regulating reserves which respond instantaneously, supplemental reserves can be activated swiftly—within a 10-minute window—enabling the system to recover from sudden imbalances. For instance, a backup generator system, whether newly installed or pre-existing, can be a perfect solution to supply such supplemental reserves. When the grid requires additional power, these generators can ramp up, and allow a facility transfer their electrical load to the generator(s) thereby curtailing or removing load from the grid.

 

One very recent example that I’m sure all Albertans remember, is the Emergency Alert issued on January 13th during a serious cold snap of -40°C. Operating Reserve was a crucial tool for keeping Alberta from power outages, and Voltus played a key role by dispatching their supplemental reserve portfolio.

 

 

Participating in the OR market not only contributes to the stability of Alberta’s power grid but also represents a strategic business opportunity to create an additional revenue stream. Through our partnership with Voltus, Collicutt Energy Services is positioned to make participation in the OR program simple and easy.

 

We invite you to be part of Alberta’s energy resilience story.

 

Visit our Webpage to discover how we can energize your business with a WIN-WIN through Alberta’s Operating Reserve program and Voltus.

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Powerlines and Backup Power Generation

The Importance of Backup Power Generation: Safeguarding Your Business Amidst the Fragile US Electrical Grid

Reliable electricity is the lifeblood of our entire society! Without electricity, we would not be able to grow, transport, or store food; heat or cool our homes; transact business; secure our country, and the list goes on! However, the stability of the US electrical grid has become a growing concern. This has been highlighted by an increasing frequency of power outages caused by weather events, accidents, and natural disasters. These events highlight the urgent need for businesses to consider backup power generation as a crucial investment.

Fragility of the Electrical Grid

According to a recent paper written by Robert Bryce1, the US electric grid has a generation capacity of 1.25TW and is interconnected across the continent by:

  • 6.1 million miles of wire, poles and transformers
  • 12,538 utility scale power plants
  • 9 federal power agencies
  • 2,003 public utilities
  • 856 coops
  • 315 power marketers
  • 178 investor owned utilities

This ad hoc compilation of disparate parts and systems results in an extremely complex and potentially unstable system! The vulnerability challenges that the grid is facing can be categorized into a few main areas:

  1. Complex interconnections – All of the different organizations involved in the regulation, power generation, transmission, and distribution of electric power create a myriad of single points of failure. These single points of failure may be minor but could cause a cascade of additional failures impacting a large geographical area.
  2. Aging infrastructure – Much of the US power grid is outdated and in need of modernization. These aging components add to the risk and complexity identified in point (1) above.
  3. Extreme weather – Weather events can cause outages due to loss of sub stations or powerplants, downed powerlines, etc.. Add to this grids that don’t have enough gas, hydro, or nuclear power generation to cover their demand when that demand is high and wind turbines or solar are not producing.
  4. Overload – The pace of urbanization has outstripped the pace of new power generation capacity. This results in increased grid overload and eventually brownouts or blackouts.
  5. Cybersecurity – Technology has advanced over the years and the threat of cyber attacks on our power grids is significant2, 4, 5. Although, there are many efforts underway to address this (reference this paper published in September 2021 “Cybersecurity in Power Grids”3) we still have a lot of work to do in this area.

Options for Backup Power Solutions for Your Business

The fragility of the US electrical grid system that is outlined above requires businesses to invest in backup power solutions that will keep them operational while the grid power is unavailable.

Every business is unique and the backup power solution for each business needs to be designed accordingly. Fortunately, there are many options and combinations of products available, including:

  1. Diesel – A standby power generator that is only stated and run during a power outage. When using HVO fuel, these sorts of systems have reduced emissions significantly. See What is HVO and Why Should You Care for more details.
  2. Battery – As battery technology is advancing, using batteries as part of your backup power is something that should be considered. They are particularly effective when you have a microgrid system that may need a method of storing extra power that cannot be used at the time it is generated.
  3. Natural Gas or Biogas – Natural gas power generation is much cleaner than diesel6 so this may be a great option for your business. If you have a source of biogas then you may be able to use this directly or blend7 it with natural gas to create low cost fuel source to generate electricity.
  4. CHP, Combined Heat and Power8 – CHP systems are typically a natural gas or biogas fueled generator that also capture the heat produced by the generator and use this energy to improve the overall efficiency of the system to greater than 90%. Colleges, schools, commercial buildings, hospitals, and casinos are some examples of where CHPs can be used effectively.
  5. Microgrid9 –  This is a localized group of electricity sources and loads that can operate independently of the traditional centralized power grid. A typical system would include power generation from solar, wind, batteries, and a natural gas or diesel power generator.
  6. EaaS, Energy as a Service – This is typically supplied as part of a CHP or microgrid power system and consists of a natural gas or biogas fueled generator that is operated and maintained by a third party rather than by the business. See A Sustainable Solution for Uninterrupted Power for more details and advantages of an EaaS solution.

Take Action Today

Businesses cannot afford to overlook the fragility of the U.S. electrical grid. Power outages can have severe consequences for revenue, reputation, and operations. Investing in backup power generation solutions is not just a smart move, it’s a necessity to ensure business continuity, reliability, and peace of mind in the face of an unpredictable electrical grid.

Don’t wait until the next power outage . . . contact Collicutt now tollfree at 1.888.682.6888 and let us guide you to a solution that safeguards your business’s future.

 

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A blog post image that talks about the case for methane fueled electrical power generation

A CASE FOR METHANE FUELED ELECTRICAL POWER GENERATION: PART 2 – All ENERGY TAKES ENERGY TO PRODUCE ENERGY!

In Part 1 of this series we discussed greenhouse gas emissions, how they are applicable to methane and other energy sources including solar PV and batteries, and why the responsible use of methane must be considered as a viable energy source for the production of electricity.

In Part 2 of this series we will focus on the energy required to create energy.

All Energy Takes Energy to Create Energy!

As we strive for a sustainable and efficient energy future, the choice of fuel source becomes crucial. One component of the equation that must be considered as we plan our energy future is Energy Return On Energy Invested or EROEI.

EROEI assesses how much energy is obtained from an energy source relative to the energy invested in extracting, refining, and using that source. It provides insights into the energy profitability and effectiveness of a particular energy system.

The calculation of EROEI involves considering all the energy inputs throughout the lifecycle of an energy source, including exploration, extraction, transportation, refining, and operation. This encompasses both direct energy inputs, such as fuel used for extraction, and indirect energy inputs, such as the energy used in manufacturing and maintenance of equipment.

A higher EROEI indicates a more energy-efficient and sustainable energy source, as it signifies that more usable energy is obtained compared to the energy invested. Conversely, a lower EROEI suggests that the energy source requires a significant amount of energy input relative to the energy it generates.

EROEI is a valuable tool for assessing the viability, economic feasibility, and environmental impact of different energy sources. It helps inform decision-making processes regarding energy investments, resource management, and the transition to more sustainable energy systems.

As you can imagine, the EROEI varies greatly per power source. The following chart shows average EROEI multiples for various fuels (data from ARC Financial Research (2) – Peter Terzakian “The End of Energy Obesity” (1))

Conclusion

This chart clearly illustrates that methane has a very high return on energy invested compared to energy sources like solar PV or biodiesel. In fact, methane has about three times the return on energy invested than a source like solar PV. This is a significant difference considering the abundance of methane in North America and the well-established methane distribution methods that exist (e.g., pipelines, LNG, CNG, etc.).

When this EROEI is factored into a decision matrix along with the GHG emissions conclusions from Part 1 of this series, one must seriously consider the responsible use of methane as a fuel for energy generation.

If you have any questions regarding this article or if you have a microgrid or power project of any kind that could benefit from a methane powered generator, give us a call at Collicutt at 888.682.6888. We have a team of experts that will work with you to evaluate your project and determine the best fit solution for you.

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