California takes two big steps toward more renewables and EV’s

by Silvio Marcacci.

California already leads the United States in most measures of the clean energy economy, but two new initiatives by the state’s grid operator could ensure the Golden State’s electricity system can handle far more renewables, electric vehicles, and power demand.

The California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) announced two plans last month to help it integrate EV’s as grid balancing resources, increase demand response and energy efficiency to shave peak demand, and coordinate long-term grid reliability as more renewable power generation comes online.

Either of these initiatives by themselves would be big news for the cleantech industry, but taken together, they hint at the true potential of California to blaze a path toward a clean energy future.

California transmission lines image via ShutterStock
California transmission lines image via ShutterStock.

Shave Consumer Power Demand To Boost Grid Reliability

Cal-ISO started in mid-December by releasing the Demand Response and Energy Efficiency Roadmap, a blueprint intended to help “flatten” peak consumer electricity demand while enabling grid operators to better incorporate distributed generation and energy storage within three years.

The plan also takes a long-term approach toward replacing the retired San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, as well as the potential retirements of 6,000 megawatts of older coastal power plants at risk of closing starting in 2017 when regulations limiting ocean water to cool turbines take hold.

“Implementing new, more responsive resources on a system-wide scale using a market mechanism will further advance California’s clean energy goals,” said Heather Sanders, Cal-ISO’s Director of Regulator Affairs. “It could also replace or defer investments in more expensive energy infrastructure.”

Future California peak power demand graph via Cal-ISO
Future California peak power demand graph via Cal-ISO.

Four integrated pathways are necessary to boost the state’s reliance on energy efficiency and demand response, as well as distributed generation resources like microgrids and rooftop solar without threatening reliability, according to Cal-ISO:

  • Load reshaping: Using incentives to modify consumer power use, flatten peak demand, and better forecast demand instead of building new peaking generation capacity.
  • Resource sufficiency: Ensuring enough generation resources are available to be dispatched across the system to match demand trends.
  • Operations: Changing ISO policies to use generation resources more efficiently as well as developing new market policy to better value and expand demand response participation.
  • Monitoring: Provide benchmarks and mechanisms to monitor progress and ensure the plan accomplishes its goals on time.

EV’s Help Strengthen The Grid Instead Of Crashing It

But in addition to reducing consumer power demand, Cal-ISO is also turning one of it’s biggest potential liabilities into a powerful energy storage tool – the surge of EV’s expected to hit California’s roads (and grid) over the next decade.

The Vehicle-Grid Integration Roadmap aims to coordinate EV charging with grid conditions by creating tools for EV networks to better respond to market signals like charging when demand is low and pushing power back onto the grid when demand is high.

“Vehicle electrification presents an unprecedented opportunity, through charging strategies and aggregation, to contribute to the reliable management of the power grid without impacting consumer driving habits,” reads the report…At a minimum, managed or smart charging strategies are needed to ensure EV’s do not increase peak load, requiring additional generation or capacity expansions.”

Turning EV’s from a potential grid reliability risk into a resource is an important issue for the state. It’s home to the most EV’s in America, and is targeting 1.5 million EV’s by 2025 as part of a multi-state compact. California’s also home to the most renewable energy output of any state, so ensuring EV’s integrate with the grid can alleviate concerns of “crashing” the grid when they’re all plugged in while expanding the market for renewable generation when it’s available.

California vehicle-grid integration chart via Cal-ISO
California vehicle-grid integration chart via Cal-ISO.

Similar to the demand response/energy efficiency roadmap, Cal-ISO outlines three pathways to best integrate EV’s onto the grid:

  • Determine vehicle-grid-integration value: Determining value of grid services like energy storage and distribution to EV owners, while estimating the total market potential for VGI services.
  • Establish policies and regulations: Defining how EV’s can integrate with the wholesale and retail power markets as well as setting fair compensation for grid access to EVs.
  • Enable technology innovations: Supporting technologies to better manage EV integration like aggregation, grid-EV communication, and control over two-way power flow.

Can California Once Again Lead Us To A Clean Energy Future?

Perhaps most promising, however, is the fact that Cal-ISO isn’t just making these policy decisions in a vacuum. Both roadmaps were developed in concert with utilities, developers, and business interests to ensure they’re realistic.

And in addition to the two roadmaps, Cal-ISO recently approved a multi-year reliability planning process with the California Public Utilities Commission so the lights stay on as the state moves toward a 33% renewables by 2020 goal.

California is already the epicenter of America’s clean tech market, and it’s safe to say other states and grid operators look west when seeking best practices to reliably add clean energy resources. But the state has also been the location of one of the biggest energy market failures – Enron. By carefully assessing what’s needed to make the power system of tomorrow work, Cal-ISO may just be creating a roadmap for the rest of the U.S. to follow.

This article, California’s Grid Takes Two Big Steps To Add More Renewables And EVs, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio MarcacciSilvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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Jerry Brown Signs AB 327 Bill

by Roy L. Hales

Jerry Brown signs AB 327 Bill
Jerry Brown signs AB 327 Bill. Photo courtesy of: SolarCity

Originally published on San Diego Loves Green

Governor Brown has signed AB 327. Despite the initial solar vs. utilities flare-up, the final version of AB 327 was something that most parties on both sides could agree on.

One of the passages that many found offensive – authorization for the CPUC to approve a flat rate of up to $10 on all residential customers of California’s biggest utilities, regardless of whether they draw that much power from the grid – remains.

The CPUC now has to determine a compensation structure for people whose solar feeds the grid and there are many who argue that the terms of their investments should not be changed mid-stream.

According to Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of the Latino group Presente.org, “The debate now shifts to the Public Utilities Commission where implementation of key portions of the bill, including the fees will be decided on. It will be important that the public does not lose sight of the big utility lobby’s true motivations. These charges have always been more about putting billions of dollars into the pockets of the big utility companies rather than anything else. The new charges stand to affect low-income communities who are already struggling to pay their bills and those that are already doing their part to conserve energy. California’s solar jobs, energy savings, and the state’s entire clean energy economy are all at stake.”

Yet, as a spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) told San Diego Loves Green, “The landmark bill that will provide much-needed stability for California’s rooftop solar industry.”

AB 327 achieves the following:

  • Removes the suspension on net metering that would have gone into effect at the end of year.
  • Eliminates uncertainly over how the current net metering cap is calculated.
  • Provides a framework for removing the net metering cap altogether.
  • Removes the 33% ceiling on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.”

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Governor Jerry Brown
Governor Jerry Brown

Before Governor Brown signed this legislation, he wrote a letter to the Members of the California State Assembly stating;

“I am signing Assembly Bill 327.

“This comprehensive rate reform legislation provides the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) with the necessary Authority to address current electricity rate inequities, protect low-income energy users and maintain robust incentives for renewable energy investments.

“Specifically, the bill gives the CPUC the authority to craft a new electricity rate structure while increasing statutory discounts for qualified low-income customers. It also requires the electric utilities to develop distribution infrastructure plans to ensure that ratepayer dollars are being utilized in the most efficient way possible. Finally the bill makes it clear that California’s 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard is a floor, not a ceiling.

“As the CPUC considers rules regarding grandfathering of net meter customers, I expect the Commission to ensure that customers who took service under net metering prior to reaching the statutory net metering cap on or before July 1, 2017, are protected under those rules for the expected life of their systems.”

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 5.44.54 PM

There still appears to be some concern about the impact of AB 327 and it will undoubtedly not be too long before the utility companies impose the $10 a month flat rate this legislation allows, but the solar industries comments about this legislation now sound favourable:

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch applauded, “SEIA applauds Gov. Brown for his unwavering commitment to clean energy. His efforts to reduce carbon emissions across California will have a positive and profound impact on the state’s future.  This law provides a clear pathway for the continued growth of solar generation in California, which ranks #1 in the nation in total installed solar capacity with 3,761 megawatts (MW) – three times more than any other state. What’s more, solar now provides nearly 44,000 good-paying jobs across the state, while saving money for hundreds of thousands of Californians on their utility bills. Gov. Brown should be congratulated for recognizing the importance of clean solar energy to both California’s economy and its environment.”

“What AB 327 does is removes the net metering cap that would have inhibited many Californians from realizing the inherent economic benefits of harnessing power from the sun as a means to improve properties, slash energy costs and create a hedge against inevitable utility bill increases.

This is an important day for the solar industry, and for the home and business owners we serve.” — Dave Steele of PURE Solar Power.

“From a business perspective, this allows the state’s solar contractors to be confident with long-range planning for their businesses.  Now we know the incentives surrounding solar energy won’t be denied to property owners.  This gives solar companies like mine more confidence in the long-range planning for our business, i.e. forecasting employee hires and growth opportunities, which in turn contributes to the health and sustainability of the industry,” said Pekka Laine, President of Photon Solar Power, Inc..

But the best explanation of AB 327 came from Terri Steele of Figtree PACE, who emailed me, ”Can you feel that breeze, Roy?  It’s the entire solar industry in California breathing a sigh of RELIEF!!”

This article, Jerry Brown Signs AB 327 Bill, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.