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OPINIONATED: Binary Geothermal Gives PV a Run for Its Money

17 Oct 2017


By Paul Thomsen

In 2017, for the first time, the combined energy and capacity values of geothermal energy significantly exceeded the value of solar photovoltaic resources in California.

In the first quarter of 2017, geothermal’s wholesale energy value in Southern California was $13.50/MWh greater than solar PV. At the same time, utility estimates of marginal solar PV capacity ratings for the 2018 Resource Adequacy compliance period were between nearly 0 percent and 20 percent, resulting in a capacity value difference of up to $18...

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The Buzz

13 Oct 2017


Utility regulators approved $30 million for energy storage facility subsidies in disadvantaged communities, mostly for institutional systems.

The California Public Utilities Commission’s former chief administrative law judge is preparing to sue the agency in court on claims of a retaliatory firing after blowing the whistle on alleged collusion by the commission staff with Pacific Gas & Electric...

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Retalitory Firing Claim by CPUC Head Judge Heads to Court

12 Oct 2017


The State Personnel Board rejected a whistleblower complaint filed by the California Public Utilities Commission’s former head administrative law judge last month.

The Personnel Board’s rejection “is good news,” Daniel Siegel, attorney for Karen Clopton, former CPUC chief administrative law judge, told Current Oct. 11.  It opens the door to file a whistleblower suit in the Superior Court...

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The Buzz

5 Oct 2017


A top legislative staffer gives an insider’s look at the fallout from the governor’s ill-fated effort to push through a bill to create an integrated western grid in the waning days of the legislative session.

Electric transportation advocates flock to a meeting this week on the California Air Resources Board’s plan to give away $1.5 billion in incentives.

Juice examines the woes of independent generators...

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Fallout from the ISO Regionalization Effort

5 Oct 2017


Gov. Jerry Brown created considerable “collateral damage” by attempting to ram through legislation at the end of the last lawmaking session to allow California’s grid operator to expand to western states, said Kip Lipper, the Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León’s chief consultant.

“It was a drive by shooting,” said Lipper, noting he was expressing his personal view about Brown’s strong-arm tactics...

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The Buzz

29 Sep 2017


A future as predictable as a Ouiji board was a central theme at the Independent Energy Producer’s annual meeting this week amid mounting uncertainty from the changing role of utilities and the scarcity of contracts for generators.

Speaking of contracts, and lack of them, utility regulators this week nixed a deal between Southern California Edison and NRG for the Elwood natural-gas-fired plant in Goleta...

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The Buzz

15 Sep 2017


A quick gut and amend revived grid regionalization legislation that caused a mad scramble among legislators, lobbyists and wide array of interest groups. Then mid-week, Assemblymember Chris Holden, the author of the six day-old legislation, slammed on the brakes.

Less hectic and more successful was the advance of a budget trailer bill divvying up $1.6 billion of carbon cap-and-trade revenue.

A few blocks away, with no controversy, the CA Energy Commission awarded several million dollars in grants to fund multiple projects to advance alternative technologies, from biomass using dead and dying trees to a battery project aimed at desalinating water...

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JUICE: PURPA’s CA Purpose

13 Sep 2017


Congress may gut the federal law requiring utilities to buy power from qualifying solar, wind and other alternative energy projects. Is that a big deal for California?

Not really—if looking through a California-only lens.

When viewing the issue from a Western perspective, however, significantly weakening or eliminating the must buy provisions of the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 becomes a bigger deal...

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The Buzz

8 Sep 2017


California’s heat wave sparked new historical peak power loads in Southern California and came close to topping the state’s all-time record demand for electricity.

Meanwhile, wildfires caused minor damage to the state’s power system, but brought no major consequences.

Despite ongoing calls by some for lawmakers in Sacramento to enact last-minute grid regionalization legislation, no amendments have been offered to any bill as time is running out...

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CA Exodus from Federal Advisory Roles

6 Sep 2017


California is steadily losing its voice when it comes to federal energy and environmental policy as the Trump Administration either alienates or removes Californians from various advisory committees and delegations in Washington.

In the latest move, The Trump Administration notified Carl Zichella Sept. 1 that he would not be reappointed to the Department of Energy’s Electricity Advisory Committee...

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The Buzz

31 Aug 2017


A week that began with record heat and a near record demand for power ends even hotter with a forecast of a new all-time record peak demand for electricity in California. The grid operator calls for conservation. PG&E calls for flashlights.

Decentralized solar energy coupled with storage and smart controls can lower the cost of maintaining the grid and provide a basis for an evolution to resilient microgrids, heat or no heat, according to report for Sonoma Clean Power...

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JUICE: Voluntary 100% Renewable Programs Lack Traction

30 Aug 2017


Community choice and utility programs offering customers all solar energy or 100 percent mixed renewable power are about as popular as wall flowers.

The uptake rate of consumers voluntarily paying community aggregators and private utilities for all solar or a mix of clean power is in the low single digits. It is as low as a fraction of 1 percent of customers to up to 3.7 percent.

The state’s first community energy aggregator, Marin Clean Energy, offers its customers 100 percent local solar energy for a 30 percent premium above its 100 percent renewable program...

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The Buzz

25 Aug 2017


State utility regulators okayed a shift in the peak pricing period to later in the day for San Diego Gas & Electric customers. Industry advocates warn it erodes the economic advantages of rooftop solar.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry gets an education about how the grid operates. A Department of Energy staff report he requested out of concern that renewable energy could create blackouts by forcing closure of traditional baseload power plants finds his fear is unfounded...

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CPUC Okays New SDG&E Peak Period

24 Aug 2017


State energy regulators unanimously approved the second phase of San Diego Gas & Electric’s 2016-19 general rate case, which includes a shift in the time-of-use peak period and off peak rates. The redesign is part of SDG&E's allocation of its approved triennial revenue requirement.

“Time-of-use rates acknowledge we have an eclipse every day,” Mike Picker, California Public Utilities Commission president, said Aug...

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The Buzz

4 Aug 2017


How big a role electric vehicles and distributed solar roofs play in California will shape future energy demand. The California Energy Commission found that getting 1.7 million EVs on the road in a decade could drive up demand, but be offset by more solar rooftops and storage.

Bolstering that forecast are big bucks now flowing into the Golden State to support a growing EV market.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission finally has a quorum...

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The Buzz

28 Jul 2017


The California Independent System Operator seeks to widen the route to the state’s wholesale electricity market for demand response.

Microgrids promise benefits, but first the California Energy Commission says numerous speed bumps must be removed to make them more commonplace.

The grid operator seeks to head off the potential for sudden loss of large amounts of solar power on the grid due to the way solar plant inverters react to transient variations in frequency on high voltage transmission lines...

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The Buzz

21 Jul 2017


The more things change, the more they don’t stay the same, Mike Picker, California’s head utility energy regulator tells a legislative panel. That includes the greening of the state’s energy supplies causing a flux in the grid, but with less impact than expected.

In greater flux is the fate of the proposed Puente power plant slated for Oxnard.  Support for alternative resources rises along with opposition to licensing the gas-fired project pending before the Energy Commission...

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The Buzz

14 Jul 2017


The governor’s carbon cap-and-trade renewable legislation passes through a Senate panel after a six-hour hearing in which environmental justice activists and local and regional air districts denounced the measure. The oil company-friendly bill package was introduced Monday.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade deal appears to be more about cementing his legacy than it is about improving the atmosphere, concludes this week’s Juice column...

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Opinionated: NREL at 40-It Started With a Desire to Harness the Sun

11 Jul 2017


By Wayne Hicks and Don Gwinner

May 3, 1978, fell on a Wednesday, but it was Sun Day as well. President Jimmy Carter, who had designated the date to highlight the potential of solar energy, spent part of the afternoon visiting an office park in Golden, Colorado. It was there, 10 months earlier that the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) opened.

The oil embargo of 1973 was one impetus for the United States to consider establishing a laboratory to explore non-petroleum energy options...

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The Buzz

7 Jul 2017


Taking the “dis” out of disadvantaged communities was center stage for lawmakers and regulators this week.  Reversing the trend of rising climate emissions and co-pollutants in poor local neighborhoods was the focus of a joint legislative Climate Change Policy panel.  Meanwhile, the CPUC zeroed in on making environmental justice  energy programs just.

The Utilities & Energy Committee passed bills to give customers more data access and green the peak load...

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