Can Community Initiatives And Demand Flexibility Save the California Grid?

T&D World

Community Choice Aggregation allows communities to pool their electricity load to purchase clean energy and develop local projects and programs on behalf of their residents and businesses. Community choice aggregators (CCAs), like Northern California’s MCE are ideally positioned to help solve these emerging grid challenges. CCAs have over 11 million customers in California, representing 50 GW of load, including 3.9 GW of solar generation and 1.1 GW of storage. Because CCAs are designed to offer more local control over energy, they are close to their communities and therefore more responsive to their customers’ demand flexibility, needs and desires.

MCE, which serves 36 communities in four Bay Area counties, was Recurve’s first partner. The San Rafael-based non-profit has reinvested over US$180 million back into its communities through customer programs and renewable energy projects since 2010 while eliminating almost 500 kt of GHG emissions and investing US$1.6 billion into new California renewable energy projects.

MCE has supported the innovation of open-source tools and new market models that turn traditional energy efficiency and demand response on their heads, breaking down barriers and driving toward scale.

To meet these challenges, MCE recently partnered with Recurve to launch a new Demand FLEXmarket to reducing demand during the costly summer peak hours most likely to contribute to blackouts.

By offering vendors payments for load shifting to non-peak hours and event-based response to support grid reliability and resiliency, the FLEXmarket effectively integrates energy efficiency measures and demand response to create a truly flexible resource that can manage both extreme events and the long-term load-shaping needs of a decarbonizing grid.

The program aims to drive 20 MW of peak reductions this summer, with 100% clean and local energy sources. This new market is focused on preventing blackouts. It will send both a summer peak hour price signal and a day ahead resilience incentive that can be deployed during grid events.

The launch of MCE’s FLEXmarket represents a potentially transformative moment for the future of integrated demand flexibility and behind-the-meter distributed energy resources. It also demonstrates how innovative market solutions and community choice aggregators can play a critical role in deploying local resources to support grid decarbonization and help customers manage energy costs.

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