Fed Regulators Hear New Fossil Support Needed for Renewables

By Published On: January 21, 2011

Addressing renewable energy integration on a national, as well as a California level, the California Independent System Operator implored the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to encourage a policy that allows grid operators to back renewable resources with fossil-fueled power supplies—new and old. “We emphasize the role of traditional facilities,” CAISO chief executive officer Yakout Mansour told federal regulators Jan. 20. He added that new investments are required to “support reliable operations.” Meeting California’s 33 percent renewables portfolio standard policy calls for “sustaining the ability of the fleet [of traditional power plants] today so they can stay in business,” said Mansour. The grid support provided by fossil-fueled facilities for renewable power that is intermittent in nature, is required, he added. Solar and wind power ebbs and flows with the weather and time of day. The grid requires voltage and other ancillary services to keep transmission from blinking on and off from intermittent renewable resources. Federal regulators, for the first time this week, heard en masse from regional grid operators to ascertain the nation’s transmission system progress—covering the interoperation between grids, and future planning, as well as integrating renewables. One issue highlighted the contrasts in policy to site new facilities with regional differences. CAISO, for instance, has a policy-driven initiative to obtain facilities that support state interests—like the 33 percent renewable portfolio standard. Other regions are still grappling with siting agencies that may see the need for a new facility if its absence threatens blackouts, but siting agencies don’t have the same vision as California entities when it comes to policy driven facilities, according to other grid operators. Even in regions where renewable energy takes up a smaller portion of supply than California, grid operators appear to be planning for a future with a modicum of wind and solar energy. For instance, storing energy to be tapped when renewable resources aren’t available is a project in the PJM grid, said Terry Boston, PJM chief executive officer. “Plug-in hybrids are going to change our world,” he said. The grid operator also has a pilot storage project using hot water heaters.

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