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PG&E’s fossil fuel-powered microgrids

by Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive


Highlights:

  • The towns of Angwin, Calistoga, Placerville, and Grass Valley are part of PG&E’s effort to build a network of “resilience zones” and temporary microgrids in portions of its service territory that are especially vulnerable to fire-related outages. PG&E deployed 23 MW of temporary generation from fossil fuel power (diesel) in the four towns powering fire stations, medical centers, and business districts.
  • PG&E is looking for projects that can deploy between 4 MW and 69.9 MW  for four or five consecutive days without any load drop and be able to meet peak and minimum customer demand throughout that period. Some feel that 100% renewables plus storage is not tenable with these requirements
  • “We think you could do clean energy —​ it’s a mix of generation, batteries and demand response,” Sierra Club’s Amezcua said, adding that PG&E’s plans for its resilience zones needs to be consistent with the state’s air quality and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

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


Read more: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/pge-microgrid-public-safety-shutoffs-offers-distributed-energy-request-fossil-fuel-reliance/571017/

 

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.

 

 

Another Important Legislative Victory for Community Choice Energy

A two-year struggle to defeat an insidious piece of legislation in Sacramento, Assembly Bill 976, has come to a happy conclusion. On September 27 Governor Brown vetoed AB976 and added a brief signing statement (see below). In this statement the Governor echoed what community choice proponents drove home repeatedly in committee hearings and elsewhere.

The Climate Protection Campaign worked with the Marin Energy Authority, the Local Energy Aggregation Network, the Local Clean Energy Alliance, and other community choice energy supporters throughout the state to pull off what many consider to be an upset victory. We fought big money and influential utility lobbyists trying to pass the bill.

It would have singled out community choice energy programs like Sonoma Clean Power and prohibited them from using the same consulting service before and after the launch of a program. Because Community Choice Aggregation is a relatively new field, few expert consulting services exist.

With the defeat of Proposition 16 in 2010, passage of SB790 in 2011, and defeat of AB976 in 2012, the coast is getting clearer and clearer for emerging community choice energy programs throughout California to launch.

Many thanks to all of you who joined the fight, signed on to opposition letters, and sent your own letters.

   – Woody Hastings

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 976 without my signature.

This bill prohibits any company from doing business with a Community Choice Aggregation program if that company advised a local government on establishing the program.

This goes too far –local governments already have plenty of laws on conflicts of interests and transparent decision making. Adding the restriction in this bill would serve only to impede efforts to establish community choice energy programs.

Sincerely,

Edmund G. Brown Jr.