Tag Archives: Sdg&e

Utilities look to reverse net metering decision

By Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego Gas and Electric and two other major California utilities Monday filed applications urging the California Public Utilities Commission to hold a rehearing to vacate or make “modifications” to its decision keeping retail rate net metering in place until 2019.

“We feel it’s in the best interest of our customers to re-look at this issue and consumer advocates actually agree, as they have taken similar action,” said SDG&E representative Amber Albrecht.

In January, in a tense 3-2 vote, the CPUC sided with solar backers over utilities that insist they are not trying to blunt the growth of solar power in California. Instead, utilities say the net metering system that pays rooftop solar customers for the excess electricity their systems send back to the grid is unfair to consumers who don’t have solar energy systems. Solar companies and their customers say the power their systems generate helps lower strain on the electrical grid and reduces the need to buy power during times of high demand.

The commission — in a ruling that ran more than 150 pages — agreed to keep tying credits to retail rates, rather than near wholesale rates that other states use. The CPUC said it will continue to re-evaluate the rules but the decision was widely viewed as a big win for solar, as other states such as Nevada have rolled back some solar incentives.

SDG&E filed its application for rehearing jointly with Southern California Edison, calling on the CPUC to make changes to its decision. Pacific Gas and Electric also filed paperwork Monday, the deadline for applications for a rehearing, looking to get the commission to vacate its ruling. The CPUC has 120 days to respond to the requests for a rehearing.

Read full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego Vows to Move Entirely to Renewable Energy in 20 Years

By Matt Richtel, The New York Times

Last weekend, representatives of 195 countries reached a landmark accord in Paris to lower planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. On Tuesday, local leaders in San Diego committed to making a city-size dent in the problem. With a unanimous City Council vote, San Diego, the country’s eighth-largest city, became the largest American municipality to transition to using 100 percent renewable energy, including wind and solar power.

In the wake of the Paris accord, environmental groups hailed the move as both substantive and symbolic. Other big cities, including New York and San Francisco, have said they intend to use more renewable energy, but San Diego is the first of them to make the pledge legally binding. Under the ordinance, it has committed to completing its transition and cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035.

The steps to get there may include transferring some control of power management to the city from the local utility. Officials said they would also shift half of the city’s fleet to electric vehicles by 2020 and recycle 98 percent of the methane produced by sewage and water treatment plants. Many details have yet to be determined, including how the new power sources will be delivered and managed.

Under the Paris accord, nations offered general, nonbinding plans to reduce their carbon emissions. Officials in the United States envision reaching the nation’s goals mainly through higher fuel-economy standards for cars and a move to cleaner sources of electrical power, something states could help oversee. This is where the actions of a city like San Diego fit in. As the city moves to renewable energy, the State of California can begin to build its bank of carbon reductions and contribute to global goals.

Read full article in the New York Times

Not just California: Solar Battles Raging Across U.S.

By Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

California has more rooftop solar installations than any other state, and it isn’t particularly close. But the Golden State is far from the only place where the solar industry and utility companies are clashing over how much money solar customers should be allowed to save.

Officials in 24 states have recently changed or are debating changes to rate structures for solar customers, according to a report released by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center earlier this month. Many of those battles mirror the one taking place in California, where utilities like Southern California Edison say homes and businesses with solar panels need to pay more.

There’s a reason all these battles are happening now: As rooftop solar prices fall, the industry is growing more quickly than ever. That growth has reduced planet-warming carbon emissions, but it’s also thrown the utility industry into a panic about its long-term ability to make money, clean energy advocates say.

Read full article in the Desert Sun

Inside California’s energy politics, the FERC Order 745 case, and the coming storage cost shift

By Gavin Bade, Utility Dive

[Editor’s Note: The following is part of Utility Dive’s coverage of the 2015 Energy Storage North America conference.]

For many power sector observers, California utilities are the ideal partners for forward-thinking regulators looking to adapt the utility business model to the 21st century. California’s investor-owned utilities proclaim their commitment to clean energy technologies demonstrating how they’ve surpassed mandates, accepted more rooftop solar, or integrated large amounts of storage.

Utility executives from San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), provided apt examples in their keynotes at the Energy Storage North America conference. All these announcements could logically lead observers to conclude that California utilities have been proactive partners in helping set California’s ambitious clean energy goals. Not exactly, two veteran state legislators told Utility Dive at the conference.

Politics of renewable energy policy:

State Sen. Ben Hueso, chair of the Senate energy and utilities committee, ushered SB 350, the bill that set the state’s 50% RPS, through committee earlier this year. He said that the utilities have always fought hard against any mandates behind closed doors, whether it was SB 350 or earlier efforts. Former Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, echoed Hueso’s observations, but said that the power industry doesn’t behave much differently than others in this respect. “No industry likes mandates,” she said, noting that it took three legislative sessions to usher through the state’s previous 33% RPS, which was met with utility pressure behind closed doors.

California’s new RPS, by contrast, was authored and passed in one legislative session, a feat that Skinner said cannot be overstated. Not only does the bill increase the renewables portfolio standard to 50% by 2030, it also specifically calls on utilities to deploy energy storage and combines the renewables goal with an aggressive efficiency standard. So what changed to get such an aggressive bill passed so quickly?

…Clifford Rechtschaffen, a senior advisor to Brown, said the most important thing was that, in the end, “all of the utilities with the tiny exception of some northern California power agencies that had some qualms, they all supported SB 350.” Rechtschaffen said that while the utilities may have shown some resistance as the bill was working its way through the legislature, most of their concerns were operational in nature. “They weren’t quarreling with the notion that we needed to get to 50%,” he said. “They had concerns about how best to do it — some of which we agree with and others which we aren’t completely in line with, but we’re working on those. Storage is a big part of the solution.”

The role of storage in California’s renewable energy economy:

In a keynote panel discussion the California policymakers highlighted energy storage as the technology that can make 50% renewables and beyond possible for California. Once you get to that level of renewables, Rechtschaffen said, “storage is absolutely critical for grid integration. There’s no arguing about that.”

But the situation for storage, especially in the eyes of utilities, wasn’t always so rosy, Rechtschaffen said. Back in 2014, the state’s IOUs were resistant to the PUC’s mandate to deploy over 1,300 MW of storage on the grid by 2020, worried that the technology wasn’t ready and that it would “put storage in a bad light.”

In reality, the opposite happened, and SCE started off the storage procurements by buying 264 MW, when it was only compelled to purchase 50 MW at the time. For the California policymakers, it was a validation of the power of mandates to drive innovation in the power sector.

Read full article from Utility Dive

Related article: Why energy storage is key to a future with ‘no more gas turbines’ (Utility Dive) – Oct. 15, 2015

Should homeowners with solar panels pay to help maintain the electrical grid?

By Aaron Orlowski, The Orange County Register

Homeowners face a simple calculus when deciding whether to install solar panels on their roof: Will the panels pay for themselves with savings on their electric bill?

But buried in that bill are complex variables defined by what’s known as the state’s net metering rules – the very essence of which are under debate at the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco. Those rules must be changed or renewed by the end of the year. As the deadline nears, the clash over whether solar panel users should be forced to pay to support a grid from which they seek to disconnect is getting fiercer. Utilities want to slap fees on solar users, while the solar industry wants them left largely untouched.

Since 1996, California’s net metering rules have allowed homeowners with solar panels to effectively spin their electric meters backwards when their panels are generating more power than their homes are using. That helped pave the way for the state to lead the nation by installing 11,500 megawatts of solar capacity and building an industry that employs 54,700 people. Whether the new rules will bolster that industry even more or prick its balloon will likely be decided in the next two months.

Read full article in the O.C. Register

8 Facts That Explain SDG&E’s Complicated Relationship With Rooftop Solar

By Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego

Despite San Diego’s reputation as a solar mecca, San Diego Gas & Electric and the rooftop solar industry are consistently at odds.

In some ways, the game is rigged for these two to be foes: Rooftop solar has grown rapidly with the help of incentives and mandates, forcing SDG&E to integrate it. State requirements have ensured disagreements between the two play out publicly at the statehouse and at the Public Utilities Commission.

SDG&E has long argued, for example, that solar customers aren’t paying their fair share for use of the power grid, an argument being pushed by utilities across the nation. The solar industry and its supporters say SDG&E’s missing the big picture and discounting the value of rooftop solar, which allows everyday San Diegans to help the region reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. That’s far from the only dispute, though.

Here’s a breakdown of the realities contributing to SDG&E’s strained relationship with the solar industry…

Read full article from Voice of San Diego

California’s Solar Industry Fights Back on Net Metering 2.0

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

California’s biggest utilities want future net-metered rooftop solar systems to earn less for the energy they feed to the grid and solar customers to pay extra charges to cover the costs of serving them grid power.  California’s solar industry has a different idea: keep things the way they are — and don’t believe utilities when they say they and their non-solar customers can’t afford it.

In filings this week, key solar groups The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to retain key features of the state’s net metering regime, including full retail payments for the power that rooftop solar systems feed back to the grid. That’s in stark contrast to proposals from the state’s three large investor-owned utilities, which ask the CPUC to lower payments, impose new charges, and make other changes that would reduce the economic payback of future net-metered solar systems. Utilities say that today’s net-metering regime unfairly slants compensation toward rooftop solar and will impose billions of dollars of cost shifts to non-solar customers if not changed.

Read full article from Greentech Media

Inside California’s rate restructuring plan and the battle for fixed charges looming over it

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive

California regulators united behind a new rate framework before the Independence Day holiday, but lurking behind the decision is a bigger one for utilities and renewables advocates alike.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted unanimously on July 3 to flatten the current four-tiered electricity rate system to two tiers, push for time-of-use (TOU) rates by 2019, and make other noteworthy changes to how utilities bill customers. California’s investor owned utilities, San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), hailed it as a step toward making rates fair. The state’s utility watchdog condemned the decision, the ratepayer advocate is concerned about it, and solar advocates are studying it warily. All recognize a decision on fixed monthly charges was deferred.

Reaction from utilities: SDG&E

SDG&E Spokesperson Amber Albrecht:

  • “We were hoping for more immediate relief but we are on the right path. This new rate structure inserts more fairness and transparency into electric utility bills,” and “brings rates more in line with the true cost of service.” The new rate design will not take away customers’ incentive to be more efficient about their electricity consumption.
  • SDG&E tier 3 and 4 customers now pay “136% more than those in the lowest tier” and those in the lowest tier “pay 15% less than the cost of the basic delivery of electricity.” With the new two tier plan, the higher users’ bills will come down while the lower users’ monthly bills will likely edge up to around $2 to $5.
  • In 2017, the SUE will go into effect; it is expected to be levied on about 2% of SDG&E customers. “Each IOU’s rates will be slightly different but the basic pattern will be the same.”
  • “This is the first step in a broader discussion about the modern electricity bill. Now we know what the framework will be. Moving forward, the CPUC will have a number of proceedings and make a number of decisions on things like net energy metering.”

Reaction from utilities: Southern California Edison

SCE Director of Pricing Design Russ Garwacki:

  • “Our estimates find the high usage customers are paying $600 million in subsidies per year to low usage customers. Even when fully implemented in 2019, there will still be significant subsidies left in the rate structure but this does provide relief.” The new plan corrects an overpayment by higher usage customers without asking lower usage customers to subsidize them.
  • Incentives for conservation and solar: The new rate design will not take away customers’ incentive to be more efficient about their electricity consumption. Lower rates for tier 2 customers will reduce their incentive to be more efficient, but higher rates for tier 1 customers provide them with an incentive to conserve. “There is a point-counterpoint. And that extends to the incentive to go solar. Because the tiers are flattened and the rates are more closely tied to cost, more middle usage customers will consider solar. A recent CPUC energy division report found solar adoption is higher under flatter tiers.”
  • Minimum bill/fixed charges: The decision “was a compromise and balancing of a large number of issues,”—the minimum bill is an example. It is not, as characterized, a replacement for a fixed charge. The commission decided to deal with the fixed charge in 2019, but the implication of the minimum bill is that even the lowest usage customers should pay “some fair share” for the distribution system. “They viewed the minimum bill as a first step toward fixed charges. That is not what we asked for but it is a step in the right direction.”
  • TOU rates: Rates follow cost with a TOU structure and it is important to provide that cost signal for residential customers. SCE just completed transitioning all its non-residential customers to TOU rates. Studies are beginning to demonstrate that, over time, usage shifts and the load profile flattens in response to them. SCE wanted an opt-in to TOU rates, but the commission disagreed.

Reaction: Solar Industry

  • Solar Energy Industries Association: “Most importantly, we’re glad to see that the commission has not adopted fixed charges – and recognized that there’s no evidence to justify them. These rates are workable, although we believe a greater tier differential would more appropriately reflect the costs of high energy users.” The flattened tiers “should significantly mitigate any concerns the utilities have about cost shifts among ratepayers.”
  • Solar Electric Power Association: “This decision is an important part of the process to incorporate more distributed resources into the system.” But rate design “needs to be articulated as part of a broader conversation on the utility business models.”
  • SolarCity: “The proposed decision achieves the utilities’ goal of flattening the tiers while also making the entire rate system more equitable for ratepayers. If net metering remains in place, this decision will continue to allow Californians to go solar.”

Read full article from Utility Dive

California’s Distributed Energy Grid Plans: The Next Steps

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

Last week, after a year of behind-the-scenes work and much public debate, California’s big three investor-owned utilities turned in their long-awaited distribution resource plans (DRPs). These DRPs are essentially blueprints for how Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric are going to merge rooftop solar, behind-the-meter energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles and other distributed energy resources (DERs) into their day-to-day grid operations and long-range distribution grid planning and investment regimes.

Each California utility has created mapping tools that show how much capacity is available on each distribution circuit for new DER interconnection, for instance — something that could be very useful for distributed energy developers. All three utilities have also agreed on a common set of measures for how DERs could help shore up grid capacity, increase reliability, serve system-wide needs, and otherwise stand in for costly utility upgrades. And each has laid out how it plans to fold these DRP methodologies into their general rate cases (GRCs), the once-every-three-years process that determines how much each can charge its customers for its capital and operating costs for the coming years.

Many questions remain about how to determine which combination of DERs will meet the least-cost models that utilities use to rank their distribution grid upgrades, and what kinds of new capabilities grid-supporting DERs will need to have to serve as replacements for utility investments. There’s also much uncertainty about how DERs serving as stand-ins for grid infrastructure should be paid for, and how their costs and benefits should be shared. These issues are of major interest for solar-storage combinations from SolarCity and Tesla, SunEdison and Green Charge Networks, Sungevity and Sonnenbatterie, and SunPower and partners Stem and Sunverge, which see an opportunity for earning grid services revenues as stand-ins for distribution grid investments. They’re also important for the commercial building and residential energy management platform providers looking for ways to tap California’s emerging opportunities for distributed demand response.

These costs and values wouldn’t just flow from utilities and their customers to DER providers—each utility’s DRP asks the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for permission to spend lots of money on beefing up their own systems to enable their visions. Southern California Edison alone is estimating its DRP-related capital expenditures could add up to $347 million to $560 million over the next three years, for example, and PG&E and SDG&E will also be seeking new funding, though they haven’t yet specified how much.

All three DRPs add up to nearly 1,000 pages, which makes it hard to summarize all the next steps they contain, but here are a few highlights of the challenges to come.

Read full article from Greentech Media

Related articles: How California’s biggest utilities plan to integrate distributed resources (Utility Dive)

Inside the nation’s first renewables-plus-storage microgrid

By Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Borrego Springs, California, sits less than 100 miles from San Diego, but in terms of electric reliability the two places were once worlds apart. San Diego Gas & Electric serves 3.4 million consumers with 1.4 million electric meters in its territory. And last year – for the ninth consecutive year – it was named the most reliable Western utility by PA Consulting Group.  But if you lived in Borrego Springs, an isolated desert community surrounded by a state park, your utility experience was markedly different.

“That area has seen outages over the years, some lasting days on end,” according to Jim Avery, SDG&E’s chief development officer. “Borrego Springs is served by one radial transmission line traversing 60 miles of exposure. It is susceptible to wildfires, windstorms, flooding and hail.” After wildfires knocked out power to the area in 2007 for two days, the utility took a hard look at how to better supply residents and businesses. About 2,800 people live in the community, which is entirely surrounded by Anza-Borrego State Park, the largest park in California.

“As a result of the wildfires, we decided we were going to rethink the way we served communities such as Borrego Springs,” Avery said. “We started our quest for designing a fully-integrated microgrid, one that could integrate conventional sources of generation, renewable sources, such as rooftop solar, as well as substation and utility-scale solar.” The system also includes distributed energy storage and batteries located at substations. With the help of $8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, “we’ve gone through an evolution in the last seven years towards building that ultimate microgrid,” Avery said. “And we’ve had some opportunities to test it under different conditions.”

The grid was used to avoid some smaller outages, and then earlier this year the California Energy Commission awarded the utility a $5 million grant to expand, allowing it to interconnect with the nearby 26-MW Borrego Springs solar facility.

In late spring, major flooding did damage to SDG&E’s transmission corridor – potentially leaving customers in the dark again. Historically, that would have meant a 10-hour outage as the utility rebuilt the poles. “We would have had customers out of service for almost an entire day,” Avery said. “But because the microgrid was up and running we were able to switch over all of our customers to be fed by the rooftop solar systems scattered out in the community, in addition the large-scale solar, and it was all balanced by the batteries located on the distribution line and at our substations.” Borrego Springs’ peak load is about 14 MW, and rooftop plus utility-scale solar give the community about 30 MW of generation. The batteries can store about 1.5 MW.

Borrego Springs isn’t the only microgrid out there, of course. It’s not even the only one operated by SDG&E, which has a few other grids in place for voltage regulation. But, according to Avery, it is the first of its kind to power an entire community with renewable energy.

Read full article from Utility Dive