Rooftop PV installation on the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe administration building

Our Community Energy Resilience letter to the Governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force and more

Many thanks to the organizations which were able to quickly sign-on to the Community Energy Resilience letter to the Steyer Economic Recovery Task Force. Here is a link to the press release and final letter sent this past Friday. Also, here are links to Monday’s press coverage in Microgrid Knowledge and Solar Power World. We appreciate the opportunity to continue collaborating with other organizations statewide in our effort to transform California’s electricity system to becoming clean, affordable, resilient, equitable, and safe.

Community Energy Resilience is a collaborative statewide effort to fund and support local governments for planning and implementing decentralized clean energy microgrids, prioritizing lower-income communities. Here is a recent Cal Matters op-ed we co-authored. This effort is especially urgent as we face extended wildfire seasons and additional power blackouts.

The Climate Center is hosting a Community Energy Resilience webinar series with the next webinar coming up on June 24th. The series will culminate in an on-line Policy Summit on August 5th. Register here. You can view last week’s Community Energy Resilience for Local Governments webinar, held in partnership with the Statewide Energy Efficiency CollaborativeLocal Government Commissionhere.

Also, you can view our May 29th Climate Friday webinar on Community Energy Resilience: Empowering Local Communities with Amee Raval of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Kurt Johnson of The Climate Center here .

In other Community Energy Resilience news:

  • Last Thursday the CPUC issued a Decision in the microgrid proceeding which included recommendations The Climate Center and partners had filed to enhance utility collaboration with local governments.
  • The Decision should make it easier for local governments to access the utility data they need to engage in Community Energy Resilience planning.
  • The state budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $50M for Community Power Resilience.
  • Senator Stern’s microgrid bill, SB1215, is still moving forward.

Good news for The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience program

by Ellie Cohen

The last few weeks have brought good news related to The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience program, part of The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign.

On April 29th, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a Proposed Decision in its microgrid proceeding which included recommendations The Climate Center had filed with the CPUC. The Proposed Decision directs utilities to provide information and assist local governments in developing energy resilience projects. Final CPUC approval — expected in June – should make it easier for local governments to access the utility data they need to engage in Community Energy Resilience planning.

On May 14th, Governor Newsom issued his updated budget proposal for the upcoming FY 2020-2021 fiscal year.  Notwithstanding severe state budget cutbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor’s latest budget proposal retained $50M in funding for community energy resilience which The Climate Center and Partners have been advocating for.  The Climate Center and Partners will continue to urge State leaders to retain these funds in the final budget.

On May 28th  the California Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee passed SB 1215, legislation to promote the development of microgrids.

The Climate Center is hosting multiple upcoming energy resilience events, including a May 29th webinar as well as a Community Energy Resilience webinar series to provide practical information regarding the immediate need to keep critical facilities powered during the upcoming fire season as well as the long-term opportunities to simultaneously advance local resilience and climate goals.

There remains a huge amount of work ahead in our effort to transform California’s electricity system to becoming clean, affordable, reliable, equitable, and safe – and we have seen some promising forward progress in recent weeks.

If you would like to support our efforts, click here.

Southern California Edison contracts mammoth 770mw energy storage portfolio to replace California gas plants

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media


Highlights

Investor-owned utility Southern California Edison (SCE)  has signed multiple grid battery contracts totaling in 770 megawatts of storage.

  • SCE aims to have these seven projects live by August 2021, making it the fastest turnaround for a project of this size
  • These batteries will be stationed at existing solar farms, creating renewable energy for the grid and providing new energy sources as the state shutters multiple coal fire gas plants
  • These project sites are spread out through the lower half of the state, with some located in Riverside County and the Central Valley
  • In order to secure the proper financing, the California Energy Storage Association and storage companies are asking the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to expedite the process for reviewing and approving the projects
  • Large scale batteries will be the new norm as California aims to have 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free resources by 2045

The Climate Center’s clean and smart community microgrid initiative for a Climate-Safe California will help ensure that all cities and counties have the funding and technical support to conduct collaborative, participatory planning processes going forward.


Read more: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/southern-california-edison-picks-770mw-of-energy-storage-projects-to-be-built-by-next-year

Earth Day 2030: California celebrates reaching net-negative emissions

Let’s imagine it is April 2030. In the early 2020s, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, we in California finally addressed the climate crisis at the speed and scale science demanded.

Nation & World Collaborating for Speed & Scale Climate Action

Today, Earth Day 2030, we celebrate the deep systemic changes we have collectively made for a healthy, equitable, and climate-safe future. We reflect back on an exceptional ten years of climate action.

The decade began with a nightmare, COVID-19, which woke us up to the deadly consequences of ignoring science. We quickly realized that we must heed the warning of climate experts and take immediate, bold action to avert climate catastrophe.

It took an exponentially growing body of diverse advocates (like you!) putting pressure on policymakers to create bold change in line with the science. COVID-19 showed us how quickly and dramatically we could change government policies, unleash market forces, and create opportunities for everyone to participate in a climate-safe economy.

Today we look back on our many achievements, including:

  • California accelerated the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use. 

Legislation enacted in the early 2020s is showing enormous benefits for health, the environment and the economy as the state halted all new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and began rapidly phasing-out fossil fuel-powered cars, trucks, buses, trains, and equipment.

We dramatically increased investments in public transportation, housing near jobs, and innovative programs that reduced toxic air pollution, especially for frontline communities.

The state also enacted zero-emissions building codes and began phasing out methane gas. We are grateful to the workers whose livelihoods were dependent on fossil fuel industries for making this rapid transition to a 100% GHG-free, clean energy economy possible.

Ranchers, farmers, and public resource managers were incentivized to implement climate-friendly habitat and soil protection and restoration programs on millions of acres from the Sierras to the sea.

Farmers led the way in reducing emissions while supporting food and water security with climate-friendly, regenerative production.

  • Unavoidable damage from extreme climate events meant that California became heavily invested in community resilience and protecting the most vulnerable, lower-income communities.

Legislation enacted in the early 2020s funded and supported California’s counties and cities to develop and implement clean, local, decentralized, resilient energy and storage, building independent capacity to address climate and other emergencies.

Major new state programs funded and supported local climate emergency response and preparedness measures, including early warning systems, resilience centers, and public education programs that are now benefitting all Californians.

  • California created new financing mechanisms, from frequent flyer fees and carbon taxes to private sector investments, that generated the billions of dollars needed annually for speed and scale climate solutions.

Millions of people took action to bring about the changes in policy that accelerated our transition.

On this Earth Day 2030, we commit to continuing our efforts to secure a healthy, vibrant, and equitable future for all.

We can achieve this vision if we act today based on the latest science. Support The Climate Center and help make Climate-Safe California a reality. Make every day Earth Day!

What’s the ideal way for the microgrid industry to come back from COVID-19?

By Lisa Cohn, Microgrid Knowledge 


Highlights

The Clean Energy community called for relief in the recent federal stimulus package as the industry has taken a critical hit due to the COVID- 19 pandemic.

  • Over 100,000 clean energy sector workers have lost their jobs due to business shifting during the pandemic and the industry could lose half of its workforce in the coming weeks, erasing the growth the industry gained during the last year 
  • It was projected that the industry would have contributed $25 billion to the economy
  • Offering the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) as accessible cash payments is a top priority for the industry since many companies won’t have tax liabilities. The ITC is the largest source of savings for solar installations but the credit is dropping from 30% to 26% this year
  • Many solar projects are postponed this year, meaning these projects do not qualify for the 30% ITC unless the project meets certain qualifications 
  •  The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is calling for the U.S. government to invest $450 billion to equip 30 million rooftops with solar panels, providing installation jobs and clean energy for homes
  • The Alliance for Rural Electrification is calling for fast-tracking existing procurement and funding procedures for decentralized renewable energy projects, and electrifying rural health facilities

Increased air pollution from fires and fossil fuel emissions makes all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. With community energy resilience we can ensure that our power is clean and not further contributing to emissions in our communities. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read more: https://microgridknowledge.com/microgrid-growth-covid-19/

Climate change won’t stop for the coronavirus pandemic

By Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica


Highlights

Inevitable climate-change fueled catastrophes such as wildfires and hurricanes will increase the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Climate change has amplified the threats of natural disasters over the years and will prove disastrous as the pandemic rages on worldwide
  • The U.S. National Climate Assessment warned that scientists and officials often fail to consider “compound extremes,” meaning the impact of multiple disastrous events occurring at once
  • There are 25 states at risk for major flooding events this spring. Warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico make it likely that a hurricane will make landfall this summer when we are likely to still be fighting the effects of the COVID pandemic
  • If major events occur that force people into evacuation centers, it will be hard to maintain social distancing and nearly impossible to self-isolate, creating an environment where more people can become sick
  • The economic toll of a disaster during this pandemic can raise recovery costs by the billions
  • States should start planning how to handle a disaster during this pandemic by reviewing preparedness plans and disaster response
  • FEMA has stated that it is working on disaster preparedness during the pandemic, but many people are skeptical that its efforts will be beneficial

Increased air pollution from fires and fossil fuel emissions make all of us more vulnerable to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Community energy resilience means power that is clean and reliable, even in the face of power shutoffs during disasters. For a safe and healthy future for all, endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to implement scalable solutions that can reverse the climate crisis.


Read more: https://www.propublica.org/article/climate-change-wont-stop-for-the-coronavirus-pandemic?

New study supports distributed clean energy and community energy resilience

by Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News


Highlights

Small-scale energy projects are likely to help the world reach climate goals more effectively than larger-scale projects, according to a new study from Science Magazine.

  • The study used existing technologies to see what would help countries lower emissions all the way down to net-zero by 2050 and examined factors such as cost and accessibility 
  • So-called “granular” technologies such as solar plus storage, heat pumps, smart thermostats, electric bikes, and shared taxis had the capacity to lower emissions more so than “lumpy” technologies such as nuclear power, carbon capture, or building retrofits
  • Lead author of the study Charlie Wilson suggests that governments prioritize small scale solutions by “directing funding, policies, incentives, and opportunities for experimentation away from the few big and towards the many small.”
  • Small-scale granular tech is easier to deploy and can create local jobs faster and have a lower investment risk

The Climate Center’s clean and smart community microgrid initiative for a Climate-Safe California will help ensure that all cities and counties have the funding and technical support to conduct collaborative, participatory planning processes going forward.


Read More: https://www.ehn.org/clean-energy-small-scale-2645618293.html

Electrify everything, or aim for beneficial electrification?

My how things have changed. Back in the day, when most of the electricity we used was derived from fossil energy sources, any reduction of electricity use was considered a good thing by those concerned about emission. Now that the grid is on a trajectory toward ever cleaner sources, the dynamic has changed. Fuel switching from fossil gas powered systems to electric systems can, and most often is, a cleaner way to go.

But does this mean that we should electrifying everything, always, everywhere? Or is there a more thoughtful, measured approach that prioritizes electrification that brings the most benefit, socially and environmentally, and leaves room for other clean systems? Let’s also not forget age old common sense: it is rarely ever a great idea to put all your eggs in one basket. Consistent with that wisdom, electrifying everything may leave those who have electrified everything with nothing when there is no, or limited, electricity to be had.

Let’s start by defining these terms. When we say electrify everything, that can easily be construed to mean what it appears to say, that the aim is to simply electrify everything that requires power. For the sake of this article, that is the definition we will use. Beneficial electrification means identifying systems that run on dirty power that can be switched to use electricity with no detrimental social or environmental impacts, thus providing multiple benefits to direct users and others. Beneficial electrification is not necessarily at the exclusion of other options, both powered, and non-powered.

The Regulatory Assistance Project, an independent nonprofit organization, points to three criteria that electrification should meet to count as beneficial. It should:

  • Reduce harmful environmental impacts;
  • Save consumers money over the long run; and
  • Enable better grid management.

If we abide by these criteria, we can identify many candidates for electrification. And if we abide by our non-exclusionary principle, other non-electrified options can be considered. Let’s take a look at few use cases.

Buildings

Solar water heating is the lesser-known solar technology. When most folks think of solar power, they think of solar photovoltaics, the conversion of sunlight to electricity. Solar hot water is the conversion of solar energy to heat and it works without a need for gas or electric power. Solar water heating is a well-established and proven technology has been around since the 19th century and is used widely in many parts of the world. In Israel for example, it is estimated that 90% of households use solar water heating. Although it has significant upfront installation costs, solar water heating meets our three criteria.

I use a solar oven. I have been using it – the same one – since 2008. It is a wonderful way to avoid using gas or electricity and it is downright fun. In full sun, it rapidly shoots to over 300 degrees, hot enough for many cooking tasks including baking. Come over some time and I’ll make you a wild blackberry pie. It is also a great rice cooker – set it and forget it. Just put it out on the deck with the pot of rice & water aimed toward the south. The sun arcs across the sky in just the right amount of time to cook the rice and to then “turn off” as the angle of solar radiance becomes so steep that the temperature drops. When we are ready for dinner the rice is usually still warm enough to just scoop out onto a plate. Solar ovens meets our three criteria.

Lastly, it is critically important to remember to not electrify inefficiency. “Efficiency first,” so the loading order goes. (1. energy efficiency, 2. demand response, 3. clean distributed energy resources). Simply electrifying a bad or inefficient system is not the best way to go about things. The obvious case is solar photovoltaics (PV). Although PV costs have dropped precipitously over the past 15 years, solar panels are still expensive. It makes sense to look at ways to maximize efficiency, which often costs far less than PV, prior to calculating the size of PV array needed.

It is important to consider that a key benefit is in the specific cases where the technology itself is much more efficient. Resistance electric heaters are electric, but not efficient. They use a lot of energy, and potentially can burn more natural gas and have higher greenhouse gas emissions, than burning natural gas in a home heater. Electric heat pump space and water heaters are helpful because they are two to three times more efficient than a gas or resistance electric heater. So it is important to consider what kind of electrification technology we are talking about.

Transportation

Simply electrifying transportation will still leave us with congestion and a system that does not meet the needs of a large portion of the population. To address the transportation question adequately, investments not just in electrification, but in public transit, pedestrian and bicycling amenities should be considered. Beyond that, we can look at advancing ways to reduce the need for travel at all, such as teleworking, and redesigning our urban environments to be more conducive to non-powered transit. This is not to say that powered transportation should not be electrified. It should. The point is that we should look at these systems holistically and aim to address some of the problems that won’t be solved by electrification alone.

For greater penetration of variable clean energy sources (wind and solar), there is a critical need for tandem technologies to be deployed. A clear example is the abundance of solar PV available but not always needed during the day. We need a place to store that energy. So in the same breath that we talk about electrification we need to talk about technologies such as energy storage and automated demand response in order to realize the full benefits.

Let’s not forget about conservation. With the world population projected to reach about ten billion by 2050, resources required for the batteries and other technologies that make electrification possible will not be infinite. Conservation means reducing energy consumption by simply using less of a service, especially where that service itself is frivolous, wasteful, or not really benefiting people.

Lastly, as we consider beneficial electrification, the social, political, economic, and cultural contexts of energy use should be taken into account. Energy democracy, social justice, affordability, and concern for the effect on communities, wildlife habitat, and natural resources must be included as part of the analysis. Yes, we need to scale up renewable energy in the built environment and expand electric vehicle adoption. But if the broader context is not brought to the center of the discussion, a blind push to electrify everything could ultimately be counterproductive to the main problem that electrify everything claims to solve – addressing the climate crisis.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – March 27, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 disruption, the legislature has gone into recess until April 13 at the earliest. While the legislature is on recess, The Climate Center continues to analyze the bills that were introduced in February, and is in the process of determining positions on many of them. Below are several, but not all, of the key bills we are tracking. For a complete list of the 112 bills we are currently tracking in 2020, click HERE. Our next update will be published here on April 9. Please send updates, suggestions, corrections to woody@theclimatecenter.org

 

Assembly Bills

AB 345 (Muratsuchi) SUPPORT – This bill will, if enacted, establish regulations to protect public health and safety near oil and gas extraction facilities,  including a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors such as schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, residences, hospitals, and health clinics. See The Climate Center’s Letter of Support. STATUS: In the Senate. Read first time. Sent to the Senate Rules Committee for assignment to a policy committee.

 

AB 1839 (Bonta) WATCH – The “Green New Deal” bill. Introduced on January 6, this bill would create the California Green New Deal Council with a specified membership appointed by the Governor. The bill would require the California Green New Deal Council to submit a specified report to the Legislature no later than January 1, 2022. So far the plan is scant on specifics including how goals will be met or how much the State will pay to meet those goals. STATUS: Introduced in January 6. No committee assignment yet. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.  The Climate Center is still assessing the bill and has not yet taken a position.

AB 1847 (Levine) WATCH – This bill would authorize the CPUC (contingent on the Commission finding that an electrical corporation is not complying with State law, rules, or regulations) to appoint a public administrator to the electrical corporation for a period not to exceed 180 days. The bill would vest the public administrator with oversight authority over the electrical corporation’s activities that impact public safety. See the bill author’s factsheet. STATUS: In the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee. No hearing date set.

AB 2145 (Ting) WATCH – This bill would state the intent of the legislature to enact legislation to reform the electric vehicle charging infrastructure approval process employed by the CPUC to help ensure that by 2030 California will safely install enough EV charging ports to meet the demand through public and private investment.

 

AB 2689 (Kalra) Likely Support. – This bill updates Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) confidentiality provisions to allow a broader range of market experts to participate in complex IOU cost recovery proceedings and supports California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) oversight to protect customers from unreasonable or unjustified IOU rate increases. California IOU electric generation rates have increased 49% since 2013. Between 2008 and 2018, IOU customer rates doubled from $29.3 billion to $59.3 billion per year. AB 2689 would result in greater IOU accountability and improved consumer protection, safety, and affordability. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.
AB 2789 (Kamlager) WATCH – This bill would appropriate $1,500,000 and require the CPUC, in consultation with the CA Energy Commission, to request the California Council on Science and Technology to undertake and complete a study, as specified, relative to electrical grid outages and cost avoidance resulting from deployment of eligible renewable energy resources, battery storage systems, and demand response technologies. The bill would require the PUC to report the results of the study to the Legislature by January 1, 2022. STATUS: Awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee.
AB 3014 (Muratsuchi) WATCH – This bill aims to improve the reliability of California electric supply by reforming the State’s resource adequacy (RA) program. Specifically, this bill creates the Central Reliability Authority (CRA), a non-profit public benefit corporation, to purchase residual RA needed to meet state requirements while still allowing load-serving entities (LSEs), such as Community Choice Agencies (CCAs), to maintain their procurement autonomy. The newly created CRA also reduces costly RA purchases currently undertaken by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and greatly enhances the RA market. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.

AB 3021 (Ting) SUPPORT – This bill would appropriate $300,000,000 per fiscal year in the 2020–21, 2021–22, and 2022–23 fiscal years from the General Fund to the California Energy Commission to administer a program to provide resiliency grant funding and technical assistance to local educational agencies for the installation of energy storage systems. STATUS: Double-referred to Education and Natural Resources committees.

 

AB 3251 (Bauer-Kahan) WATCH – This bill would require that charging of energy storage systems be treated as load in calculations for demand response programs, and that capacity from energy storage systems installed on the customer side of the meter be allowed to be aggregated for purposes of determining resource adequacy capacity; and electricity exported to the grid from the customer side of the meter be allowed to count toward the capacity obligations of load-serving entities. STATUS: In Assembly, referred to Asm Energy Committee.

 

Senate Bills

SB 45 (Allen, et al) SUPPORT – Dubbed the “Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020.” This is a proposed $5.51 billion general obligation bond to be placed on the November 3, 2020 statewide general election. Specifically, $570 million will be made available for climate resiliency initiatives including microgrids, distributed generation, storage systems, in-home backup power, and community resiliency centers such as cooling centers, clean air centers, hydration stations, and emergency shelters. STATUS: Passed out of Senate, in the Assembly, held at the desk.

 

SB 378 (Wiener) WATCH – Would establish customer and local government protections related to Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) incidents. Specifically, the bill requires IOUs to provide annual reports to the Wildfire Safety Division within the CPUC on the condition of their electrical equipment and provide maintenance logs to assess fire safety risk. The bill also requires the CPUC to develop procedures for consumers and local governments to recover costs from IOUs accrued during PSPS events, improves PSPS notification procedures, and makes IOUs subject to civil fines if the CPUC determines that the IOU failed to act in a reasonable and prudent manner. STATUS: In the Assembly, pending committee referral.

SB 774 (Stern) WATCH – SB 774 would require IOUs to collaborate with the State’s Office of Emergency of Services and others to identify where back-up electricity sources may provide increased electrical distribution grid resiliency and would allow the IOUs to file applications with the CPUC to invest in, and deploy, microgrids to increase resiliency. Concerns focus on too much control being placed in the hands of the IOUs over microgrid development when other LSEs and stakeholders can and should play a role. STATUS: In the Assembly committee process with no committee assignment and no hearing date.

 

SB 917 (Wiener) WATCH – This bill renames the California Consumer Energy and Conservation Financing Authority and via eminent domain takes control of PG&E to create the Northern California Energy Utility District and a public benefit corporation, Northern California Energy Utility Services, to carry out day to day operations. The key provision of the bill that is relevant to Community Choice Energy is: “10623: The authority of a community choice aggregator to provide electric service within the service territory of the district shall remain as if the district were an electrical corporation.” STATUS: Triple-referred to Senate Energy, Govt & Finance, and Judiciary Committees.
SB 947 (Dodd) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission to evaluate financial performance-based incentives and performance-based metric tracking to identify mechanisms that may serve to better align electrical corporation operations, expenditures, and investments with public benefit goals. STATUS: In the Senate Energy & Utilities Committee.
SB 1215 (Stern) – SB 1215, the “California Emergency Services Act” establishes the Office of Emergency Services in the office of the Governor and provides that the office is responsible for the state’s emergency and disaster response services for natural, technological, or manmade disasters and emergencies. Creates a grant program for microgrids. STATUS: In Senate, double-referred to the Governmental Organization and Energy Committees.
SB 1240 (Skinner) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator, to identify and evaluate options for transforming the electrical corporations’ (Investor Owned Utilities’) distribution grids into more open access platforms that would allow local governments and other third parties to participate more easily in grid activities, as provided. The bill would require the commission to update the identification and evaluation at least once every two years. The bill would require the commission, beginning January 1, 2022, and biennially thereafter, to submit to the Legislature a report on the identification and evaluation of options. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: In Senate – referred to Senate Energy Committee.
SB 1258 (Stern) WATCH – Titled the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act, this bill would enact the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act to require the California Infrastructure Bank (IBank), in consultation with specified agencies to administer the Climate Catalyst Revolving Fund, which the bill would establish to provide financial assistance to eligible climate catalyst projects. STATUS: In the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.
SB 1314 (Dodd) SUPPORT – SB 1314, the Community Energy Resilience Act of 2020, would require the Strategic Growth Council to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. The bill would set forth guiding principles for plan development, including equitable access to reliable energy, as provided, and integration with other existing local planning documents. The bill would require a plan to, among other things, ensure a reliable electricity supply is maintained at critical facilities and identify areas most likely to experience a loss of electrical service. The bill would require the council to establish a stakeholder review board to provide statewide oversight for purposes of the grant program. The bill would require a local government, as a condition of receiving grant funding, to submit its plan and a report of project expenditures to the stakeholder review board within six months of completing the plan. The bill would require the stakeholder review board to annually report specified information about the grant program to the Legislature. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: Double-referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committees.
Rooftop PV installation on the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe administration building

Building a clean, affordable, resilient, equitable, and safe energy system to meet this moment

by Janina Turner and Stacey Meinzen

As we reel from the COVID-19 pandemic and think about the longer-term consequences, many of us are likely wondering how things will be in the fall. Many of us remember the Public Safety Power Shut-offs of 2019 that meant no electricity for refrigeration, heat, the internet, and in some cases, vital medical equipment. It was a scary time and many people purchased diesel backup generators for their homes in response. Though they are loud and cause air pollution, that comfort of knowing you can rely on the internet for evacuation warnings or know where your family is during a crisis like a wildfire or a pandemic is more than understandable.

This year, even with March rains, we are already in a drought– portending another record-breaking fire season. Thanks to climate change, we know that our fire seasons will be longer and more disastrous every year. This may be compounded by COVID-19 and the necessity of sheltering in place– possibly without electricity.

In response to wildfires and prior to COVID-19, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) had unveiled a plan to use dirty natural gas-powered generators (that they were calling “microgrids” in a misleading attempt to make them sound modern) throughout Northern California. This was a poor and outdated plan that would have destroyed local air quality, raised the risk of fire, and contributed even more to climate change through methane emissions. Given that COVID-19 is especially lethal for people with poor respiratory health, destroying local air quality is madness.

Luckily, PG&E recently abandoned these plans temporarily. According to Shinjini Menon, Director of Energy Policy for Southern California Edison, the microgrid plans would have cost 13 times more than alternative solutions and would not include clean energy technologies, so they have decided not to move forward with a microgrid deployment for the 2020 wildfire season. Looks like we are on our own.

Now many Californians are taking matters into their own hands and installing solar with battery storage. Many residents want the ability to use clean energy that they’ve created on their roofs to help them last in another power shut off event. Greentech Media reported that last year in the fourth quarter, solar installer Sunrun installed batteries on half of Bay Area home solar projects and 30% on all solar installations statewide. Though solar and storage have a large upfront cost, in the long run, the investment saves money over time since it will decrease energy bills year-round. Since there’s a large amount of solar and storage in the state, the best course of action would be to use this network of distributed energy resources (DERs) to power our homes during PSPS instead of relying on diesel generators and natural gas. 

There are many ideas about how to utilize the decentralized grid during power shutoffs. Sunrun recently revealed their decentralized grid concept that would create distribution islands utilizing solar and battery backup. Vote Solar also outlined why solar and storage are better for a more clean and resilient grid system. Even PG&E has approved a 1GWh Tesla battery facility along the central coast. With new technologies available, local and state governments must secure community clean energy resilience– not just leave it to people to try to save themselves. Statewide policy can help make it happen. 

Two bills supported by The Climate Center as part of our Climate-Safe California campaign are currently in the California legislature and are key to Community Energy Resilience:

SB 1314 (Introduced by Senator Bill Dodd): The Community Energy Resilience Act of 2020 requires the Strategic Growth Council to develop and implement a grant program for local governments interested in developing clean energy-based community energy resilience plans. 

SB 1240 (Introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner): The bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator, to identify and evaluate options for transforming the investor-owned distribution grid to provide open access that would allow local governments and other third parties to more easily participate in distribution grid transactions.

URGENT: Have your organization sign on here to support utility reform and clean community energy resilience. Individuals, please reach out to your state elected officials here.

Despite the challenges of this moment, there are viable technical and policy solutions to bring California into the 21st century. Experiencing these problems in the fifth largest economy in the world is absurd. A clean, affordable, resilient, equitable, and safe energy future is possible. Let’s build it.