Agency Heads Tout Power Additions Ahead of Summer, Not all Clean

By Published On: May 19, 2021

The chiefs of the California grid operator and energy agencies told lawmakers Tuesday that they have done everything they possibly can to avoid blackouts this summer.

“We know we are in a stronger position than last year,” Marybel Batjer, California Public Utilities Commission president, said during a May 18 Assembly Utilities and Energy Commission hearing.

She pointed to 2,000 MW of generation and storage being added to meet net peak this summer—that is when demand is high as the sun sets. Of the amount, 1,000 MW is energy storage. About another 1,500 MW is actively under construction to meet peak demand that hits earlier. Some of the new power is intended to satisfy the new utility planning reserve margin that was increased from 15% to 17.5%.

“Not all of it is clean energy,” Batjer warned.

Elliot Mainzer, California Independent System Operator president, said staff has fixed the software glitch that resulted in scheduled power exports going to neighboring states at a moment when in-state demand was at the breaking point last August.

“The consequences of a widespread heat event are the single biggest variable we are looking at,” Mainzer pointed out. “All of our contingent planning and risk assessment is about being able to ride through that variable better than last year.”

Other areas of CAISO improvement include communicating about possible dangerous weather events seven days in advance. In addition, the grid operator set minimum charging requirements for energy storage so it can provide power when called on, as well as stronger price signals for imports and demand response.

California Energy Commission Chair David Hochschild said his agency’s modelling improvements include increasing its decade-long planning horizon to 15 years, along with more hourly assessments under a larger variety of weather conditions.

The agency heads stressed the need for a diversity of renewable resources.

Hochschild pointed to significant growth in behind-the-meter energy storage, including batteries and rooftop solar.

Those EVs can be “little power plants,” Batjer remarked.

“This summer will be an important test for the state,” Assemblymember Chris Holden, Committee chair, noted.

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