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Addressing grid capacity constraints with GETs

Record renewable energy investment is driving significant growth of low-cost, carbon-free energy in the United States that will help both Amazon and the country meet sustainability goals. Though this investment is a positive step toward a clean energy transition, existing power grid infrastructure lacks enough capacity to quickly connect all this renewable energy generation, resulting in a bottleneck that is already impeding progress.

In the long term, the construction of new transmission infrastructure and the modernization of energy systems need to accelerate. In the near term, grid enhancing technologies (GETs) provide a valuable opportunity to increase the efficiency and capacity of the existing power grid at a lower cost to consumers.

GETs, in a nutshell, are hardware and software solutions that can be deployed to the existing grid that make it smarter and increase capacity, flexibility, and resiliency. The most common GETs are dynamic line ratings (DLRs), advanced power flow controls, and topology optimization. The combination of devices provides near real-time data on how the grid is performing, helps reroute power to underutilized circuits, and supports change grid topologies—all of which provide grid operators and planners with a tool to effectively manage the grid. While we wait for new transmissions to be built, GETs could help increase the efficiency of the existing grid in a relatively cheap and timely manner.

GETs can play a pivotal role in interconnecting the 1,480 GW of zero-carbon resources that the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) estimates are seeking interconnection to the power grid.

Amazon recently worked alongside RMI on a report exploring the potential impact GETs could have on the PJM electric transmission system. RMI’s GETing Interconnected in PJM report found that the application of GETs could facilitate interconnection of 6.6 GW of new solar, wind, and storage generation across five states within the PJM region (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) by 2027.

The study investigated how to connect more renewable energy to the PJM grid by analyzing how much power the grid can currently handle and considering the cost of different solutions (via a combination of power flow analysis and production cost analysis). This helped to pinpoint optimal locations to install GETs to free up space on the grid for renewable energy sources waiting to connect in the PJM queue.

This level of GETs deployment is also good for electricity customers, as the analysis shows that GETs are significantly cheaper and yield 1 billion dollars in production cost savings thanks to the lower-cost generation they help integrate and the congestion relief they provide to the system. Considering that these technologies could be deployed more quickly and cost effectively than traditional transmission infrastructure upgrades, GETs could unlock a significant amount of renewable energy generation stuck in the PJM interconnection queue in the near term, which is important for customers and states with fast-approaching clean energy targets.

Given the urgent need to address climate change, all solutions must be on the table so that we’re making progress in the near and long term. At Amazon, we have called on US regulators to require grid planners to consider GETs in interconnection and transmission planning as a tool to add capacity and build a more flexible, modern power grid capable of supporting the energy transition.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) took an important step in that direction with its recent interconnection queue reform rule. Among other initiatives, this rule aims to implement a first-ready, first-served cluster study process; speed up interconnection queue processing; and incorporate technological advancements into the interconnection process. FERC is in the final stages of finalizing a rule requiring grid-enhancing technologies to be considered during transmission planning, and state policymakers can also take action to spur more GETs deployments in their jurisdictions.

Amazon is on a path to match all our global electricity use with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025—5 years ahead of our original 2030 target. As the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy since 2020, we’re committed to finding innovative ways to bring new projects online quicker, modernize the power grid to address capacity constraints, and work with policymakers to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We look forward to collaborating with regulators and grid operators to open the door for more GETs deployment and help increase capacity and access to carbon-free energy.

To learn more about sustainability initiatives from AWS, visit Amazon’s Sustainability in the Cloud webpage.

Abhishek Sharma

Abhishek Sharma

Abhi Sharma is the head of energy strategy for Amazon Web Services. (AWS). Abhi joined Amazon in 2014 and launched AWS’s utility power supply, renewable energy programs. Abhi also serves on the Board of American Clean Power (ACP), representing Amazon. Prior to Amazon, Abhi spent 10 years in energy, hedge fund, defense and aerospace industries. Abhi holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and Carnegie Mellon University, and an undergraduate degree from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).