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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

Community microgrids are safe, reliable, clean, smart, and distributed.

Opinion: Microgrids could prevent need for planned power outages

  • Our aging and unstable electrical system must be replaced now, not decades from now

This piece was originally published in the Mercury News opinion section on October 25, 2019. (Subscription required.)

The dramatic increase in the size and severity of California’s wildfires in recent years is just one example of the devastating effects of climate change. PG&E’s power shutdowns this month due to high-fire-risk wind conditions is a stark reminder that our aging and unstable electrical system must be replaced now, not decades from now.

In response to power shutoffs, homeowners, businesses and managers of critical facilities, such as city halls, fire stations, hospitals and schools, currently buy fossil fuel-powered back-up generators. But dirty diesel generators are not the solution. They are heavy polluters, noisy, expensive to operate and are themselves a fire risk. Further, replenishing the supply of diesel fuel is not always possible during an emergency.

There is a better way. California needs a new decentralized power system with clean, resilient energy sources. A more resilient system would reduce the number of outages both planned and unplanned. A decentralized system would enable utilities to better target specific outages and operationally isolate local electricity generation from the larger grid. This would ensure that essential governmental, health and other services would remain powered in communities during outages.

To get started building a decentralized system from the bottom up, every community should identify its critical facilities—water supply, wastewater treatment, first responders and community care centers—and decide where to install new local renewables and storage to create community microgrids. Building microgrids at the community level to generate and store electricity makes more sense than leaving it to random business and residential deployments with everyone prioritizing their own facilities and needs.

To accelerate building community microgrids, The Climate Center started the Advanced Community Energy (ACE) initiative. ACE works to provide funding, technical expertise and local capacity for cities and counties to plan and implement local clean energy and battery storage systems to keep the lights on when grid power goes off. ACE planning involves collaboration between local governments and stakeholders, from residents including those in disadvantaged neighborhoods to electric distribution utilities, clean energy developers and technology companies.

Some California local governments have already started developing community microgrids, such as in OaklandEureka and Santa Barbara. These efforts need to expand to other communities soon. A statewide program to ensure that all cities and counties have the funding and technical support to conduct collaborative, participatory planning processes is essential.

To fully implement community microgrids statewide, we must transform our regulatory policies and institutions by revising market rules so that thousands of small-scale-distributed energy resources can be compensated for providing local energy services. We need to direct the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to develop regulatory rules for the big electric utilities to collaborate in good faith with the cities, counties and other stakeholders in their service areas.

We also need market signals to enable this transformation, starting with increased state funding to support critical facility microgrid projects. The first state supported community microgrids should be established in high fire risk areas in disadvantaged communities, and eventually should cover all of California.

Community microgrids are the logical next step in California’s remarkable history of energy policy innovation. The Advanced Community Energy initiative offers a blueprint for engaging local governments and the communities they serve in creating a clean, resilient, more affordable and equitable electricity system.

Ellie Cohen is CEO of The Climate Center, a California-based nonprofit working to enact the bold policies required by the science and climate reality to reverse the climate crisis. 

Many thanks to Kurt Johnson, Susan Thomas and others at The Climate Center for assistance in writing this piece.

 

 

Energy resilient communities through distributed, clean, smart and local microgrids (Advanced Community Energy or ACE)

by Kurt Johnson, The Climate Center (read full article on our website here)

As climate-related disruptions grow more frequent and severe, we urgently need effective local strategies to achieve decarbonization, resilience, social equity and security. The common basis for all these goals is to create local electric systems — carbon-free, safe, resilient and accessible to all — in every community throughout California. This requires a new state-led, state-funded program to empower all local governments statewide to plan and implement such systems.

Advanced Community Energy (ACE) is an initiative to establish, through legislation, a program to provide funding, technical expertise, best practices and local capacity building for all cities and counties to plan and implement local ACE systems, starting with community microgrids. Under the state program, ACE planning will involve collaboration between local government agencies, local residents and stakeholders, especially vulnerable households and disadvantaged neighborhoods, electric distribution utilities, and clean energy developers and technology companies….

Community Microgrid Schematic

….The ACE initiative is proposing new legislation for the 2020 legislative session to include the following elements:

        • Create a state-managed and state-funded program of support for local governments to develop and implement local ACE plans.
        • Increase state funding to support critical-facility microgrid projects, starting with high fire risk areas and eventually covering all of California.
        • Direct the CPUC to develop regulatory rules for its jurisdictional electric distribution utilities to collaborate with cities and counties in their service areas on ACE planning.

 In the coming months The Climate Center will be developing additional details of the ACE initiative in collaboration with California stakeholders interested in pursuing the ideas described above. If you would like to discuss this initiative with members of the ACE team please contact Kurt Johnson (kurt @ theclimatecenter .org). If you would like to be added to our mailing list to receive future updates, click here.

Blackouts Be Gone

Remember the rolling blackouts of 2001? They were frightening and really bad for the economy.

This month California came dangerously close to a repeat performance. On August 10 and August 14, the company that manages the state’s electrical grid issued “Flex Alerts,” urging us to set our thermostats at 78 and wait until evening to run appliances.

Why were power supplies so tight? Because we rely too heavily on a relatively small number of large power plants rather than lots of smaller plants throughout the state.

The San Onofre nuclear power plant is currently offline because many of its steam tubes are much more damaged than expected. Simultaneously, August hot weather and heavy air conditioning demand make us especially vulnerable. 

There is a better way. We can focus on building local-scaled electricity generators close to where power is needed. We can tap the power of the sun, wind and other cleaner sources of energy. Plus, we can do much more to reduce our power consumption by modernizing our buildings.

As Sonoma County establishes a new local electricity provider known as Sonoma Clean Power, increased resilience of the power system will be a big benefit. In time, we can make large-scale blackouts virtually obsolete.

Ann Hancock