Tag Archives: Policy & Regulation

Renewable energy bill far from perfect, experts say

By Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

With one week until California’s Legislature closes shop for the year, lawmakers are scrambling to pass an ambitious climate and energy plan. At stake are several top priorities for Gov. Jerry Brown: a 50 percent cut in oil use, a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency in existing buildings, and a 50 percent clean energy mandate.  Some version of the bill will almost certainly pass, despite opposition from the oil industry and centrist Democrats.

There has been little formidable opposition to the clean energy mandate, which is expected to jump-start solar and wind development in the desert and across the state. But for some clean energy experts, the bill leaves a lot to be desired. Critics say the bill doesn’t do enough to promote clean energy sources that can generate electricity around the clock, including geothermal, biomass and solar with storage. They say adding those kinds of power sources to the mix—rather than continuing to focus almost exclusively on traditional solar farms and wind turbines, which can’t provide power around the clock—is needed to keep electricity costs down for homes and businesses, while limiting the carbon pollution. Anything could change before next Friday. But for now, some critics see the bill as a missed opportunity to limit global warming while keeping electricity costs as low as possible.

Building more clean energy will almost certainly lead to higher electricity prices, but the exact costs of transitioning to clean energy are still up in the air. Under California’s current renewable energy mandate—which requires utility companies to buy the cheapest power on the market—utilities have largely opted for traditional solar and wind farms, because they have the lowest up-front costs. Clean energy sources that provide electricity around the clock—like geothermal and solar with storage—typically have higher up-front costs. SB 350 mostly leaves that system in place, but it would instruct utility regulators to consider the benefits of round-the-clock clean energy sources, such as rooftop solar with storage.

Read full article in the Desert Sun

California pushes forward on renewable power

By Kate Galbraith, CALmatters

At a Pacific Gas and Electric power plant east of San Francisco, greenhouse gases flow from a stack as the air shimmers from heat, with no dirty cloud of pollution in sight. In the distance, wind turbines spin slowly under a cloudy sky. Nearby, local schools are celebrating the addition of solar panels to their roofs and parking structures.

The state’s electric power sources are poised to get cleaner still. In 15 years, California’s electric utilities would need to get fully half their electricity from renewable sources, if SB 350, which is working its way through the Legislature, passes. The goal, called a renewable portfolio standard, can almost certainly be met, though it will require utilities to make behind-the-scenes adjustments as they juggle different types of energy. California’s plan, a piece of a broader strategy for battling climate change, is considerably more ambitious than most other states’ efforts.

California’s electricity providers have already made strong efforts to add solar and wind power, and have never used much coal — a big reason why the state will feel little impact from the new federal rule. Between 2000 and 2013, greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s electric sector fell considerably faster than emissions overall, largely because of renewable energy mandates, first enacted in 2002 and strengthened in 2008 in by then-Gov. Schwarzenegger’s executive order.

The order, which subsequently became law, requires utilities to get 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. However, not all forms of renewable energy get counted. Large hydropower projects are excluded. So are most rooftop solar panel installations, as opposed to the large solar arrays in the desert, which do count. That is a point of contention in the current bill, with utilities and solar installers arguing that rooftop systems also should count.

Read full article from CALmatters

A Revolutionary Roadmap for California’s Distributed Energy Future

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

California is already changing its utility and energy regulations to incorporate rooftop solar, behind-the-meter energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles and other grid-edge resources, arguably faster than any other state. But a group of utilities and energy industry members have ideas for even more radical transformations ahead.

On Tuesday, the Advanced Energy Economy Institute released a report that calls for California regulators to consider entirely new ways for its major utilities to invest in and operate a distributed energy resource-rich grid, and how to get paid for it. The report, Toward a 21st Century Electricity System in California, lays out a laundry list of concepts that could help utilities shed their institutional need for investing in traditional generation and grid infrastructure, and encourage them to embrace customer-owned and third-party-controlled distributed energy resources (DERs) as an alternative.

The ideas aren’t that novel in and of themselves. What’s more noteworthy is the list of participants in the working group that created the document. That list includes California utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, as well as DER providers like SolarCity, Stem, SunPower, Enphase, EnerNOC, ChargePoint and SunEdison, which have at times sparred with the state’s utilities over how to balance utility and third-party interests when it comes to distributed energy.

Read full article from Greentech Media

Related article: Report—Incentives hold back clean energy (The San Diego Union Tribune)

The Solar Industry Stands Divided Over California’s 50% Renewable Energy Target

By Julia Pyper, Greentech Media

These days, it’s rare to see rooftop solar installers and investor-owned utilities aligned on state policy issues. But in California, the two industry groups are both lobbying for behind-the-meter solar to count toward the state’s expanded renewable portfolio standard.

SB 350, the “Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015,” seeks to increase the state’s renewable energy target from 33 percent by 2020, to 50 percent by 2030. It also calls for cutting petroleum use in the transportation sector by half, and doubling the energy efficiency of buildings over the next 15 years. The bill has already passed the California Senate, and is now making its way through the Assembly.

One of the issues both utilities and solar installers have raised is that distributed solar should not be treated any differently than utility-scale solar as the state crafts the rules around meeting the new 50 percent target. As the RPS stands today, California utilities are only required to buy energy and renewable energy credits (RECs) from utility-scale solar plants. California is the only state in the country that does not count distributed solar toward the state’s RPS goal, either through a distributed generation carve-out or by generating RECs.

In letters to the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce, Southern California Edison and PG&E argue that “state policy should not pick technology winners and losers, favoring only utility-scale renewables,” and call on the legislature to “expand the scope of eligible renewable resources to include distributed generation facilities such as rooftop solar that the state already acknowledges are renewable, yet do not count toward the RPS goal.” This change would give utilities more ways to meet the lofty 50 percent RPS goal. It would also give them a potentially more affordable way to meet the goal by leveraging existing and future private investment toward meeting the RPS, rather than necessarily having to contract for new large-scale projects using ratepayer dollars.

The issue has made strange bedfellows of power companies and rooftop solar installers, which have clashed in several states over the future of net energy metering. Meanwhile, it has pitted rooftop solar companies against large-scale solar installers, which are actively lobbying against the RPS change.

Read full article from Greentech Media

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How California plans to integrate distributed resources into its ISO market

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

A new era of grid operations is about to begin in California.

The state’s grid operator is preparing to offer aggregators of distributed energy resources (DERs) the opportunity to sell into its marketplace, the first in the nation to do so. DERs are the resources on the customer side or the distribution grid side of the electric system, such as rooftop solar, energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles, and demand response, and are typically below the 500 kW minimum size required to sell into the ISO system.

CAISO’s Final Plan

The “straw proposal,” an early draft of the ISO’s DERP initiative, was published last November to give stakeholders an opportunity to comment.  The final draft of the ISO’s plan answers many of the stakeholder concerns, with a focus on details of expanded metering and telemetry, the communications and counting methods, and the technologies the grid operator will need.

DER Aggregation

The ISO’s proposal provides a framework for the aggregation of DER to meet the ISO’s 0.5 MW minimum participation requirement and participate in ISO wholesale markets as an aggregated resource. The ISO proposes to classify a distributed energy resource provider or “DERP” as the owner/operator of one or more aggregations of individual distributed energy resources2 (DER) that participate in the ISO market as an aggregate resource rather than as individual resources.

Metering

In today’s California market, all of CAISO’s centralized generators have a resource identity (resource ID) and are required to have “revenue quality metering.” That can be via a direct interaction between the ISO and the resource ID, or it can be through a scheduling coordinator that mediates between the ISO and the resource ID. But for distributed resources, assigning a resource ID to each one is not feasible.

The proposal allows a scheduling coordinator to take administrative control of aggregated distributed energy accounts and meter them with any technology, including any online technology, that suits their purposes. The aggregator can be its own scheduling coordinator or can hire a third-party. A directly connected interface between the ISO and the aggregator is no longer required.

Locational dispersion and capacity of DERP aggregations

There are some 4,900 market pricing nodes (PNodes) on the ISO system. The system is also divided into load aggregation points (LAPs) that follow the territories of the state’s three investor-owned utilities. They are subdivided into sub-LAPs. With the issue of counting the DERPs clarified, the proposal takes up the question of how the ISO can keep track of the multiple sources and types and locations of DERs with which it will have to deal.

Under the new proposal, DERP aggregations may consist of one or more sub-resources at single or multiple locations. There can be multiple small resources across multiple PNodes, but they must be within one sub-LAP.  There is no minimum size limitation on the individual sub-resources in a DERP aggregation. This means that individual sub-resources may exceed the ISO’s minimum participation requirement of 0.5 MW. DERP aggregations across multiple PNodes may not exceed 20 MW, but for DERP aggregations limited to a single PNode, there is no MW size limitation.

Mixing DERs

For DERP aggregations limited to a single PNode, the sub-resources may be heterogeneous – that is, a mixture of sub-resource types is permitted, and there is no MW size limitation. It is not required that all of the sub-resources move in the same direction, only that the net movement of the aggregate of the sub-resources equate to the ISO dispatch instruction.

DERP aggregations across multiple PNodes may not exceed 20 MW. For DERP aggregations across multiple PNodes, all sub-resources within that sub-LAP must be homogenous and must move in the same direction as the ISO dispatch instruction. Homogenous aggregations are those in which all sub-resources are generation, energy storage acting together in charge or discharge only, or are load. For aggregations of energy storage, all sub-resources must be operating in the same mode (i.e., charging or discharging, but not a mix of the two) in response to an ISO dispatch.

The ISO performs network analyses to make certain the system is receiving what the market is selling into it. Sub-resources in an aggregation across multiple PNodes can cause distribution variability. But the PNode distribution variability must be minimized or “the congestion impacts estimated in the network analysis will be off.”  Until the ISO has enough operational experience to know whether the distribution variability would be a problem, it wants to limit DER aggregations “to those that move in the same direction as the ISO dispatch instruction.”

This is especially relevant to aggregated solar-plus-storage technologies that might be producing both load and generation, the final draft acknowledges. “The ISO recognizes that there is great interest in aggregating mixtures of rooftop solar, energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles, and demand response across multiple PNodes, without all the limitations required in this proposal. The ISO plans to examine such options in subsequent initiatives.”

Wait ‘Til Next Year

Several stakeholders suggested provisions be made for demand response (DR) in aggregations of distributed resources, but the ISO chose to limit its role, and does not include demand response participating as Proxy Demand Resource (PDR) or Reliability Demand Response Resource (RDRR) in the DERP proposal. In the proposal, the ISO clarifies that demand response participating as PDR or RDRR would continue to participate under its existing demand response framework and not under the DERP framework. The ISO says the existing PDR and RDRR framework already provides for market participation of aggregated demand response. This existing framework is designed to accommodate load reducing resources whose performance is assessed under a baseline methodology.

Stakeholders also suggested including in the DERP final proposal both the alternative baselines for PDR, and the alignment between distribution level interconnection and the ISO New Resource Implementation process. They are part of a separate energy storage initiative. These suggestions were declined. To facilitate bringing aggregated DERs into its marketplace, the ISO wants to include initially only those that can be directly metered under the specified terms.

The ISO will take formal comments on the final draft through June 24th. If approved by the Board in mid-July, the ISO will probably file by early autumn with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That approval will require at least 60 days.

Read full article in Utility Dive

Debate Over California’s Renewable Energy Expansion Goes Through The Roof

By Jeremy B. White, The Sacramento Bee

A political fight over California’s renewable energy industry is playing out in the corridors of power, but it deals with something closer to home: your rooftop.

Capitol policymakers are advancing an ambitious proposal to have renewable sources generate half of the state’s electricity by 2030, up from the 33 percent benchmark already in law.

The full force of California’s political establishment backs the goal: Gov. Jerry Brown pitched the idea, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, has promoted it aggressively, and bills enshrining the new standard passed both the Senate and the Assembly with strong Democratic support.

The question now seems less whether the new goal will be enacted than how utilities will get there. With the clean energy industry anticipating an opportunity for more business, California’s rooftop solar firms are fighting to be included – and meeting resistance from other industry players.

“The rooftop solar is going to be a big policy issue,” said Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, who chairs the committee overseeing utilities and energy. “It’s also going to be a big political issue.”

Read full article in the Sacramento Bee

Required Reading on San Diego’s Solar Surge

By Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego

San Diego is considered a national solar hotspot. This spring, the nonprofit Environment California Research & Policy Center dubbed San Diego the No. 2 solar city in the U.S. in a national survey. That same report noted San Diego’s solar growth outpaced Los Angeles, the nation’s top solar mecca.

Yet the region and the rest of the nation are approaching a crossroads. Some solar policies and incentives are nearing near expiration, and utilities such San Diego Gas & Electric are looking to up charges for solar customers as the technology becomes more widespread.

San Diego’s Solar Status

  • Power grid: SDG&E believes that solar could create challenges for San Diego’s grid when it reaches 15 percent penetration and are working on potential solutions. As of last month, about 4 percent of SDG&E customers were solar customers.
  • Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS): SDG&E forecasts that it will meet the state’s RPS mandate of 33 percent renewable electricity well ahead of the 2020 deadline and derived 30 percent of annual retail sales from renewables in 2014. The utility says the amount of renewable energy in its resource portfolio has since risen to 32 percent, and it could meet the 33% RPS target sometime this year (figures do not include rooftop solar).
  • Rate restructuring: SDG&E wants to change its current rate structure and its proposed tweaks have frustrated some big solar customers. Five San Diego County school districts filed protests to SDG&E’s suggested peak pricing period, which the utility wants to shift from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. They argue the change would mean their solar investments don’t pencil out as planned, leaving less money to spend on students.
  • Local investment in solar: Local governments are ramping up their solar commitments as well. In March, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved updates to the county’s building code that require new homes in unincorporated areas of the county to be built solar panel-ready. The city of San Diego is also working on a Climate Action Plan that encourages more solar investment, namely with its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

Read full article from Voice of San Diego