Work done in the regulatory weeds is often overlooked as, well, too nerdy. But not this week folks…
As part of their Long Term Procurement Plan process, the California Public Utilities Commission recently issued a decision adopting the recommendations of Vote Solar and our allies regarding the system flexibility requirements model. Are you glazing over yet? Well try to hang in there, because this model is very important to the future of solar and other clean, renewable energy sources.
The model is important because it determines how much fossil fueled energy is needed to “integrate” large amounts of solar, wind and other variable renewable energy onto the grid.
Why do these variable resources need integrating? The abridged, keep you awake answer: because as consumers, we expect our electricity to be around when and where we want it.
Variable resources, on the other hand, happen when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Not necessarily when we want the lights on. Vote Solar is working hard to reform our grid so that variable resources can reliably and cost-efficiently meet a bigger and bigger piece of our energy needs – but for now, fossil fuel remains the primary filler used to make up the differences. This is often referred to as the “gas bridge” to a fully renewable future.
While we work on those longer term solutions, we still think there’s plenty of room to minimize the size and duration of the gas bridge used in the meantime. For example, more customer-generated solar meeting California’s on-site electricity needs should mean less fossil-based power the utilities need to generate.
Which brings us back to the LTPP. Vote Solar and our allies fought hard to increase the amount of behind-the-meter solar that the CPUC assumes is going to be there to lower the need for fossil power. And we won! Our work resulted in a 40% to 85% increase to the PV penetration assumptions – an increase of 1000 MW to 2500 MW of installed PV. Our compadres at NRDC did similar good work on energy efficiency assumptions to further decrease the gas integration requirement.
This kind of in the weeds, nuts and “volts” advocacy doesn’t always have the Twitter 140 character -bite appeal that blesses other areas, but as is the case this week, it can have big impacts! Here’s to the solar nerds!
For a copy of the relevant California Public Utilities Commission decision, go here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/EFILE/RULINGS/169732.htm
For a copy of the Vote Solar/NRDC comments, go here: http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/efile/CM/168179.pdf