CA’s local energy organizations can help ensure reliability while decarbonizing the grid

Vote Solar is joining together with a broad coalition of environmental and clean energy organizations in urging the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to change a proposal that would effectively exclude local community energy providers from procuring local reliability resources, like storage paired with solar and instead give that responsibility to Southern California Edison (SCE) and PG&E.  In a letter to the five commissioners, the coalition said changes in the upcoming decision are needed to preserve California’s leadership in fighting climate change.

Local organizations called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) providers have been growing across California and are responsible for procuring sources of electricity to meet the needs of their communities.  Electric utilities like SCE and PG&E continue to deliver power to homes and businesses over the power lines they own.  CCA providers have recently been at the forefront of furthering investments in green energy resources in their service areas.

In California, ‘resource adequacy’ obligations require each local service area to periodically show to the CPUC that they have enough sources of power under contract to meet their peak demand for electricity plus an extra safety margin.  Some parts of the state need to assure that those resources are close by, since there is not sufficient transmission capacity to bring in power from outside the area.

The proposed decision, set for a CPUC vote on May 28, would effectively give responsibility for procuring those local resources to SCE and PG&E even for areas that are served by CCA providers.  The problem with this proposal is that CCA providers have been working with their communities to leverage investments in preferred resources – solar, storage, energy efficiency and demand management measures – to phase out local fossil gas power plants.  If the CCAs don’t get full credit for this work, the utilities could end up signing lengthy contracts with local fossil gas generators that prolong their operations and undermine investments by the CCAs and by local businesses and residents in alternatives like rooftop solar with storage.

The coalition of CCA providers and their allies like Vote Solar are urging the CPUC to come up with a compromise proposal that would allow PG&E and SCE to take backstop responsibility for any unmet reliability need for a limited time, until a capable neutral entity can be created to manage this important ongoing responsibility for reliability.

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