Flexible Solar Utility: Preparing for Solar's Impacts to Utility Planning and Operations

Karlynn Cory, Joyce McLaren, Alexandra Aznar, John Sterling, Ted Davidovich

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This paper seeks to provide a flexible utility roadmap for identifying the steps that need to be taken to place the utility in the best position for addressing solar in the future. Solar growth and the emergence of new technologies will change the electric utility of tomorrow. Although not every utility, region, or market will change in the same way or magnitude, developing a path forward will be needed to reach the Electric System of the Future in the coming decades. In this report, a series of potential future states are identified that could result in drastically different energy mixes and profiles: 1) Business as Usual, 2) Low Carbon, Centralized Generation, 3) Rapid Distributed Energy Resource Growth, 4) Interactivity of Both the Grid and Demand, and 5) Grid or Load Defection. Complicating this process are a series of emerging disruptions; decisions or events that will cause the electric sector to change. Understanding and preparing for these items is critical for the transformation to any of the future states to be successful. Predicting which future state will predominate 15 years from now is not possible; however, utilities still will need to look ahead and try to anticipate how factors will impact their planning, operations, and business models. In order to dig into the potential transformations facing the utility industry, the authors conducted a series of utility interviews, held a working session at a major industry solar conference, and conducted a quantitative survey. To focus conversations, the authors leveraged the Rapid Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Growth future to draw out how utilities would have to adapt from current processes and procedures in order to manage and thrive in that new environment. Distributed solar was investigated specifically, and could serve as a proxy resource for all distributed generation (DG). It can also provide the foundation for all DERs.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages63
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-64586


  • photovoltaic
  • PV
  • solar
  • utilities
  • utility
  • Utility 2.0
  • utility operations
  • utility planning


Dive into the research topics of 'Flexible Solar Utility: Preparing for Solar's Impacts to Utility Planning and Operations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this