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.

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. 

Turns out Democrats and Republicans agree on something – microgrids

by Elisa Wood, Microgrid Knowledge


Highlights

Massachusettes based think tank, Civil Society Institute, conducted a survey that shows Independents, Democrats, and Republican voters have an interest in microgrids:

  • Around 1,000 voters were surveyed and more than half had never heard of the concept
  • After receiving a short description of the concept, more people became interested to learn more about microgrids and how they pertained to issues such as climate change, grid security, and grid modernization

microgrids

    Image from Civil Society Institute, Sourced from Microgrid Knowledge
  • Bipartisan support could eventually lead to the adoption of more microgrids 

The Climate Center has launched a new initiative supporting clean and smart community microgrids to build community energy resilience. The initiative, called “Advanced Community Energy,” will establish a decentralized power system of community microgrids built from the bottom up with clean power and storage to reduce the number of outages both planned and unplanned. 


Read more: https://microgridknowledge.com/microgrids-voters-survey/

Legislative Update for March 12, 2020

Below are several selected upcoming committee hearings and several, but not all, of the key bills we are tracking. For a complete list of the 44 bills we are currently tracking in 2020, click HERE. Please send updates, suggestions, corrections to info[at]cleanpowerexchange.org. Our next update will be published here on March 26.

SPECIAL NOTE: Due to the Corona Virus situation, legislative hearings are being canceled. Please check committee websites for latest updates.

Key Committees and Committee Hearings
Assembly Bills

AB 56 (Garcia) OPPOSE – This holdover bill from 2019 would empower the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to order energy procurement based on real or perceived shortcomings in the Integrated Resource Plans submitted by Investor Owned Utilities, Direct Access providers, and CCAs. The bill will allow the CPUC to require procurement on any perceived deficiency that may be 12 years in the future. This makes no sense, given that so much lead time would allow a CCA to address any potential problem. This bill needlessly expands the CPUC energy procurement ordering authority and forces the State Treasurer’s Office to take on unwanted energy procurement responsibilities. This bill will financially harm ratepayers by saddling them with expensive and unnecessary long-term energy contracts, compromise local efforts to reach higher greenhouse gas reduction goals, and strip away local energy decision making from 170 cities and counties that are currently serving more than 10 million people through Community Choice Energy. Read the Center’s July 2019 Letter of Opposition, which remains relevant.

STATUS: In the Senate Energy Committee. No activity since 2019.

AB 235 (Mayes) WATCH – This 2019 holdover bill would allow PG&E to issue bonds to cover 2017, 2018 wildfire liabilities that ratepayers could ultimately have to pay for, and allows the CPUC to arbitrarily set a limit on the amount a transmission & distribution utility must pay as a result of catastrophic wildfire that may have been the result of their infrastructure.

STATUS: In the Senate Committee process. No activity since 2019.

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 2689 (Kalra) WATCH – 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: Set for a hearing on March 25 in the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee

AB 3014 (Muratsuchi) WATCH – This bill evolves the state’s resource adequacy (RA) program to improve the reliability of California electric supply. 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) – 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. Set for hearing on March 25.

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. The bill includes a provision for grants to local agencies, state agencies, special districts, joint powers authorities, tribes, and vulnerable populations to incentivize installation of microgrids, distributed generation and storage systems, or in-home backup power systems, powered by clean energy systems that provide continuity of electrical service in response to, or anticipation of, disruption due to public safety power shutoffs, wildfire, or other disaster.

STATUS: Passed out of Senate, in the Assembly. Held at the desk.

SB 350 (Hertzberg) OPPOSE – This bill would “authorize the CPUC to consider a multiyear centralized resource adequacy mechanism,” meaning, a central buyer, which would encroach on CCA statutory authority on procurement autonomy. This bill is a tandem bill with AB 56.

STATUS: In the Assembly committee process. No activity since 2019.

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: Voted out of Sen. Approps Committee on Jan. 23. Heard on Assembly floor January 27, but being held pending committee referral.

SB 702 (Hill) – This bill would amend section 399.13 of the Public Utilities Code to authorize a retail seller of electricity to rely on contracts of 10 years or more in duration or ownership agreements entered into directly by its end-use customer for eligible renewable energy resources located on the customer side of the meter to satisfy the portion of the 65% requirement attributable to the retail sales of that end-use customer.

STATUS: Out of the Senate as of January 23. Now in Assembly. Read first time. Held 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-801 (Glazer, McGuire) – Electrical corporations: wildfire mitigation plans: de-energization: public safety protocol. This bill would require an electrical corporation to deploy backup electrical resources or provide financial assistance for backup electrical resources to a customer receiving a medical baseline allowance if the customer meets those conditions.

STATUS: In the Senate Energy Committee set for March 17 hearing. Removed from agenda.

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: On February 12, 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: Hearing set for March 17 in Senate Energy Committee  Postponed due to Corona Virus.

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.

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 in this edition of e-news.

STATUS: In Senate – referred to Senate Energy Committee. Scheduled for a hearing on March 31.

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: Set for a hearing in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on March 30.

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 in this edition of e-news.

STATUS: Double-referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committees. It is calendared for the Natural Resources Committee on April 14; Energy Committee, April 21.

solar by Stacey Meinzen

Climate Center and partners: New Utility Reform and Clean Energy Resilience bills

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.

A key priority of The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe CA effort is to advance the ability of local governments to create fossil fuel-free, safe, resilient and accessible local electricity systems.

Technology advances — including rapidly-declining costs for solar and battery storage — are making it possible to build an entirely new decentralized, integrated electricity grid.  This will require utility regulatory reform and new funding to empower local governments to be in charge of siting decisions about new energy infrastructure, rather than communities having decisions imposed upon them by distant corporate decisionmakers. Governor Newsom recently articulated some of the needed principles for this vision, echoing policy proposals that have been recommended by The Climate Center and partner organizations.

The Climate Center, in collaboration with Advanced Community Energy (ACE) initiative partners, recently advanced two bills in the California legislature to achieve these policy priorities:

  • SB 1314  (Introduced by Senator Bill Dodd). The Community Energy Resilience Act 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.
    • Why the bill is needed: Climate change-driven drought and fire conditions, along with dangerously outdated electricity infrastructure, led to costly power shutoffs in 2019. In the wake of last year’s disasters and facing future shutoffs, utilities and local governments are scrambling to find solutions that keep the electricity flowing. Unfortunately, dirty fossil fuel back-up generators are being installed in towns, businesses and community facilities across the state. These short-term electricity sources are counter to state goals for greenhouse gas reductions, environmental protection, and public health and safety. Today’s cost-effective, clean and decentralized clean energy resources can provide a better solution:  when grid power is down, microgrids can disconnect from the larger grid to provide reliable clean power to key facilities such as fire stations and schools.  SB 1314 would initially prioritize funding lower-income communities in fire prone regions to plan for clean energy resilience. For additional information, see the recently released report by Vote Solar as well as the Community Energy Resilience Act Budget Request Letter submitted to legislators by The Climate Center and partners.
  • SB 1240 (Introduced by Senator Nancy Skinner). This bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator (which manages the flow of electricity into and across the state), to identify and evaluate options for transforming the electricity distribution system to becoming an open local electricity market.
    • Why the bill is needed: The basic architecture of our electricity system hasn’t changed over the past hundred years, notwithstanding substantial technological advancements.  Power no longer flows one way, from distant large power plants to cities and homes. It is now possible for power to flow back and forth locally within a distribution system.    With the implementation of the state’s renewable energy goals, the growth of smart appliances and electric vehicles, and dramatically declining prices for clean energy, a cleaner, decentralized grid is now possible – which would require substantial changes in how our electricity system is managed. This new legislation, if passed, would speed the transition to a 21st century decentralized and clean electricity system. For additional information, read this Vox article.

We are grateful to Senators Dodd and Skinner for their leadership.  To help secure passage, we need organizations across California to register their support for these two bills.   Click here to add your organization to the list of supporters.

In this new solar-powered apartment complex, all 600 units have batteries that form a virtual power plant

by Adele Peters, Fast Company


Highlights:

A Salt Lake City apartment complex, named Soleil Lofts, is the first to incorporate solar plus storage into every unit.

  • The local utility will use solar and storage as a virtual power plant and will avoid using fossil fuels during peak hours
  • The developing company, Wasatch Group, used batteries from Sonnen, Inc. which are installed in all 600 units
  • The Wasatch Group saw investing in solar power and batteries as the right thing to do for the region, which is already experiencing climate impacts including worsening wildfires and droughts
  • The apartment complex includes 100 electric vehicle charging stations as well as 12.6 Megawatts of battery storage 

The Climate Center’s Advanced Community Energy initiative employs microgrids for resilience and carbon-free power with storage.


Read more: https://www.fastcompany.com/90394337/in-this-new-solar-powered-apartment-complex-all-600-units-have-batteries-that-form-a-virtual-power-plant

The Climate Center Lauds Governor Newsom’s Energy Vision: Proposes Details on How to Implement Vision

Santa Rosa, CA – The Climate Center lauds Governor Newsom for the high-level vision articulated in his energy, climate and wildfire speech earlier today before the Public Policy Institute of California.

“Kudos to Governor Newsom for articulating a compelling vision for a clean, decentralized, reliable, safe and affordable future electricity system in California,” said Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center.

The Governor explained how the PG&E bankruptcy provides an enormous opportunity for the state and that we need a utility that is “transformatively different.”  He described the next phase in utility system evolution as decentralization with an increase in local energy generation and storage.  He spoke about the need for a collaborative mindset, big structural changes and a focus on integrated solutions — for example, electric vehicle fleets as mobile supplies of stored energy.  The Governor also emphasized how the clean energy transition must continue to create jobs, and that a greener, more reliable electricity system must not be more expensive for California’s least well-off and most vulnerable citizens.

The Governor framed his remarks by explaining how former Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown had focused on the “what” and the “why” of energy policy.  He is committing his administration to be focused on the “how.”

The Governor’s speech today comes on the heels of the new State Policy Roadmap issued earlier this week by Vote Solar, Reimagine Power and The Climate Center to guide California State lawmakers on the “how.” The roadmap details proposals that align with the vision Governor Newsom outlined today, proposals that would accelerate the transition to a greenhouse gas-free electricity system, transform the outdated investor-owned utility business model to distributed energy resources, and modernize the power system including rapidly deploying clean energy community microgrids.

The Governor’s goals articulated today also align with the Climate Center’s Community Energy Resiliency Program to create local electric systems – carbon-free, safe, resilient and accessible to all – in every community throughout California, and to build local capacity to address climate change.

Now is an ideal time for the state to establish a forward-looking electricity system that benefits all of our communities and helps secure a climate-safe California. A community-based, greenhouse gas-free electricity network will advance state goals for polluting greenhouse gas emissions reduction, building electrification and sustainable transportation while also supporting the transition of workers and their families to the clean energy economy.

“The Climate Center’s energy policy proposals speak directly to the “how” of implementing Governor Newsom’s priorities,“ said CEO Ellie Cohen.  “We look forward to learning more details about his vision for a 21st Century utility system and working with the Governor’s office to realize our common, and urgently needed, vision.”


Click here to see Governor Newsom’s recent speech on energy, wildfires, climate change, and California’s future.


About The Climate Center

The Climate Center is a 501(c)(3) organization working to enact rapid decarbonization policies that put California on track to reverse the climate crisis, through net-zero emissions, carbon-sequestration, and resilient communities.  The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience initiative supports the creation of local electricity systems — greenhouse gas-free, safe, resilient and accessible to all — in every community in California. The Climate Center played a key role in the tremendous growth of Community Choice Agencies (CCAs) in California, with 19 CCAs now providing 88% clean energy to 11 million residents.


Contact:
Kurt Johnson, The Climate Center, kurt@theclimatecenter.org, 970-729-5051

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New policy roadmap to combat wildfires, prevent power shutoffs and increase community resilience

Oakland, CA — Climate and clean energy experts released a new policy roadmap today to guide California state policymakers who want to use clean energy to combat wildfires and power outages. The roadmap details proposals that would accelerate the clean energy transition, transform the outdated investor-owned utility business model, and modernize the power system.

“The 2020 wildfire season might seem far off to some, but the state is already taking action to prepare and improve our defenses,” said Susannah Churchill, California Director for Vote Solar. “Many households, businesses, and local governments are worried about future power outages and are deciding now how to meet their backup power needs. Time is of the essence for enacting state policies that help them choose resilient and safe clean energy instead of dirty and dangerous fossil fuel backup generators.”

On January 10th, Governor Newsom released his proposed state budget, which included some funding for enhancing grid resilience. He also recently announced his intention to release a comprehensive vision for a 21st-century electric utility.

“Now is an ideal time for the state to establish a forward-looking electricity system that benefits all of our communities and helps secure a climate-safe California,” said Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center. “PG&E’s bankruptcy and the havoc created by recent power outages provide a unique political opportunity to create a decentralized electric utility system that is clean, affordable, resilient, equitable, and safe. This community-based, greenhouse gas-free network will advance state goals for pollution reduction, building electrification, and sustainable transportation while also supporting the transition of workers and their families to the clean energy economy.”

“It’s exciting to see such a focus on resiliency in the Governor’s proposed budget. Climate change and PSPS have devastated our local communities and the state needs to take decisive action to mitigate those impacts. The technologies and solutions to build California’s grid of the future exist today. They can be deployed quickly and cost-effectively to address the needs of communities,” said Allie Detrio, Chief Strategist for Reimagine Power and Senior Advisor to the Microgrid Resources Coalition. “With public and private investment channeled through the right market mechanisms, we can transform our antiquated electric grid to a much more technologically advanced, clean and safe grid. One that is decarbonized, diversified, resilient, and sustainable. But that will not happen if our policymakers don’t have the political will to make big changes to the utility business model.”

The policy roadmap outlines a broad set of clean energy policies that the state could enact to address wildfires and power shutoffs, while also addressing the climate crisis. The roadmap is organized under four broad topics:

  1. Accelerate our commitment to procuring renewable energy and decarbonizing the economy through clean technologies
  2. Transform the regulatory and business model for Investor Owned Utilities to promote the deployment and integration of clean, distributed energy
  3. Support modernization of the electricity grid that supports the rapid deployment and coordination of customer- and community-sited clean energy projects, including microgrids
  4. Other policies and programs that can help reduce the impact of wildfire risk and power outages

 Proposed policies range from adopting performance-based utility regulation and helping local governments conduct energy resilience planning, to supporting the development of community resilience hubs and other means of quickly deploying resilient clean energy resources such as solar and wind coupled with battery storage, prioritizing projects targeting lower-income communities and communities of color in high fire-risk areas.

Download the full roadmap here.

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About The Climate Center

The Climate Center is a 501(c)(3) organization working to enact rapid decarbonization policies that put California on track to reverse the climate crisis, through net-zero emissions, carbon-sequestration, and resilient communities.  The Climate Center’s Community Energy Resilience initiative supports the creation of local electricity systems — greenhouse gas-free, safe, resilient and accessible to all — in every community in California. The Climate Center played a key role in the tremendous growth of Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs) in California, with 19 CCAs now providing 88% clean energy to 11 million residents.

About Vote Solar

Vote Solar’s mission is to make solar a mainstream energy resource across the U.S. Since 2002, Vote Solar has been working to lower solar costs and expand solar access. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Vote Solar advocates for state policies and programs needed to repower our electric grid with clean energy. Vote Solar works to remove regulatory barriers and implement key policies needed to bring solar to scale. For more information, visit​ VoteSolar.org.

About Reimagine Power

Reimagine Power Inc is a consulting firm focused on intelligence, market strategy and advocacy for microgrids and sustainable energy policy in the west coast. Reimagine Power’s carefully selected clientele consists of top tier innovators and thought leaders in advanced clean energy that are reimagining the power sector.