Regulators OK Rule Guiding Grid Integration of Customer Solar

By Published On: August 15, 2014

The California Public Utilities Commission Aug. 14 approved a framework for integrating surging levels of customer renewables, energy efficiency, demand-response, energy storage, and electric vehicles into lower-voltage utility distribution lines. “This may be the most important proceeding at the commission,” said Mike Florio, CPUC member. Expanding ratepayer-based, distributed generation, in place of centralized utility power, “offers the promise of a much better, more resilient and more economic system, but it is hard stuff,” Florio pointed out. Solar rooftops and other evolving alternate energy sources are “growing exponentially,” noted administrative law judge Timothy Sullivan. The changing electric system has raised reliability concerns because of increased levels of intermittent solar and wind energy flowing into an aging infrastructure, which was built to accommodate flows from large centralized power plants. Commission president Mike Peevey said this week’s rulemaking is regulators’ attempt to be “relevant.” He added, “The change is so rapid we can’t keep up.” The rulemaking was required as part of ongoing rate restructuring as directed by state law, AB 327. The commission requires Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison to submit by July 1, 2015, investment plans for integrating distributed energy resources that benefit ratepayers. The utilities also are to identify barriers, including safety issues, of hooking growing levels of alternative energy resources into utility distribution systems. According to the rulemaking, regulators are providing “guidance to the utilities for incorporating any additional spending necessary to integrate cost-effective distributed resources into its distributed energy plans for consideration in subsequent general rate case requests.”

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