Calif. utilities exceed renewable-energy goals as customers continue to flee

California investor-owned utilities have exceeded the state’s renewable energy goals, regulators said in an annual report to state legislators. Meanwhile, the incumbent utilities are losing millions of customers to community choice aggregators that will have to buy more power from renewable sources in order to meet state requirements.

The California Public Utilities Commission estimated that investor-owned utilities will obtain an average of 40% of their electricity from renewable sources this year and are on pace to achieve 50% by 2020, according to the 2018 California Renewables Portfolio Standard Annual Report. Sempra Energy subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric Co. got 44% of its retail sales from renewable energy in 2017, while PG&E Corp. subsidiary Pacific Gas and Electric Co. had 33% and Edison International subsidiary Southern California Edison Co. reported 32%. Aggregators will reach 46% in 2018, but will slip to 30% by 2020, the report found.

California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that 60% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.

The California Community Choice Association, or CalCCA, said by email that the aggregators have either already met or plan to meet or exceed California’s RPS mandates, including the 60% RPS in 2030. That assessment is based on members’ integrated resource plans filed this year, CalCCA said.

Power exodus

The report highlighted the fact that utility progress toward RPS goals becomes increasingly less relevant as millions of customers buy their energy from alternative electricity providers. Investor-owned utilities have estimated that they could lose 60% to 80% of their current electricity customer demand over the next eight to 10 years. As additional aggregators are formed, the PUC said, state regulators will oversee a smaller percentage of renewable procurement in the state.

At the same time, they have limited jurisdiction over the procurement activities of aggregators and other nonutility energy providers. Community choice aggregation enables municipalities to form agencies to purchase energy on behalf of electricity customers in their jurisdictions.

For the 2018 RPS report, the commission said data was not available for 10 aggregators who launched in localities throughout the state in 2018, so the report is based on data the PUC received through 2017. CalCCA provided S&P Global Market Intelligence with a list of 17 aggregators projecting that an average of 44% of retail sales will come from renewables in 2020, and 61% by 2030. Seven aggregators have signed 59 contracts for more than 2,100 MW of new construction, the association said.

“That is impressive, considering two years ago only five CCAs existed with a combined load of around 5,000 GWh,” said CalCCA Executive Director Beth Vaughan.

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