California’s patchwork push to scale up virtual power plants

Canary Media

This lack of a steady support structure for virtual power plants is a problem for most VPP projects across the state, Kate Unger, senior policy advisor for the California Solar and Storage Association said. It’s a serious barrier to expanding the tech to the point where it can meet its potential as a widespread alternative to the large-scale resources that the CPUC and utilities currently rely on.

That’s because the distributed energy resources that make up virtual power plants — rooftop solar, batteries, electric vehicles and smart appliances — can do a lot more to help customers than big power plants can, according to Rafael Reyes, senior director of energy programs at Peninsula Clean Energy, one of the community choice aggregators that procure clean energy for a growing number of the customers of California’s big three utilities.

But finding ways to capture the grid value of solar-plus-battery systems to reduce their upfront cost for customers is tricky, said Peter Levitt, PCE’s distributed energy resources programs manager. For PCE and other community choice aggregators, the best current option is using them to reduce their resource-adequacy costs, he said.

MCE, the community choice aggregator serving parts of the northern San Francisco Bay Area, has a VPP program for low-income residents of Richmond, a city burdened by pollution from oil refineries. The program offers zero-interest loans for solar, batteries, smart thermostats, heat pumps and EV chargers to customers who give MCE permission to control that equipment to ease grid stress and reduce its need to make expensive purchases of power at peak times.

Read more here: California’s patchwork push to scale up virtual power… | Canary Media