California system protects against disasters like Texas power crisis

Marin Independent Journal

Last month, an unprecedented winter storm swept across the United States, creating frigid temperatures in Texas and widespread power outages.

This started what’s now referred to as the Texas power crisis, raising questions about how our electricity system works and which regions might be next to endure such an event.

For California residents, this hits close to home. Many of us remember the rolling brownouts of the late 1990s, and the reemergence of this issue last fall when several extreme heat storms rocked the state. If it could happen in Texas, could it happen here?

Renewable energy has been blamed for Texas’ outages. However, the extreme cold weather caused the shutdown of natural gas pipelines and coal facilities that produce almost 70% of the state’s electricity. This, along with deregulated customer rates, and no requirements to have additional generation capacity in reserve, are some of the main causes of the Texas outages.

Each year, Texas customers choose their electricity provider and select a plan. This can be a fixed rate, like what we have in California, or they can choose to participate in the wholesale market, which means being exposed to varying prices based on market conditions. This is different from most of California’s time-of-use rates because the wholesale prices in Texas fluctuate with market value.

After the California energy crisis of 1999-2000, the California Public Utilities Commission doubled down on capacity market regulation, finding ways to reduce capacity risk while increasing consumer choice. In 2002, enabling legislation was passed to allow for Community Choice Aggregation providers. CCAs offer customers increased choice and energy autonomy by providing an alternative to the monopoly investor-owned utility services. Marin Clean Energy was the first CCA program to launch back in 2010. Since then, the CCA model has grown, and now CCAs provide service to more than 11 million customers.

MCE is governed by a board of locally elected officials that help set clean energy targets while creating new programs that help customers save money, reduce air pollution and create a sustainable local workforce. MCE’s rates historically change no more than once a year, and MCE has not increased rates since 2019. If we were to increase rates, a minimum 30-day customer notification period is required and decisions are made by our Board of Directors in local public hearings with customer input over several months prior to the changes taking effect.

MCE was started by a community committed to environmental justice and clean energy. As a public not-for-profit agency, our customers influence policies and programs through public meetings, ensuring that all people, regardless of race, color, national origin or income, can have a voice.

Read more here: Marin Voice: California system protects against disasters like Texas power crisis – Marin Independent Journal (marinij.com)

CCAs, Others Oppose IOU Effort to Reallocate Renewables Contract Costs

California Energy Markets

Community choice and others are opposing a request by investor-owned utilities to shift the allocation of costs for certain renewable-energy contracts from IOU customers to departing customers.

CCAs, Shell Energy North America and Alliance for Retail Energy Markets told state regulators they oppose the Feb. 11 petition by two IOUs regarding contracts for the Renewable Market Adjusting Tariff, or ReMAT, program. Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison filed the petition for modification with the California Public Utilities Commission, saying there are cost-allocation inequities around the contracts.

Under current rules, ReMAT contract costs are allocated to bundled utility service customers only, while customers that depart to CCAs or direct access pay only the above-market costs of the ReMAT contracts signed when they were under utility service. Those above-market costs are recovered in the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment fee that departing utility customers pay [R11-05-005].

“Departing load customers do not pay for any ReMAT contracts signed after their departure, even though the IOUs procure these small distributed generation resources to serve California’s broader public policy goals and irrespective of the Utilities’ customers’ needs. The resulting cost shift can be significant,” the IOUs said in their petition for modification.

The California Community Choice Association in March 15 comments told the CPUC it is concerned about continued eroding of the PCIA methodology by shifting IOU costs onto departing customers. The IOUs’ customers would retain the prime benefits of the contracts, including resource-adequacy and RPS attributes, CalCCA said.

“To ask all customers to pay the costs of the resources without sharing equally in the benefit effectuates a cost shift from bundled to departing load customers,” CalCCA said, asking the CPUC to reject the petition.

If the CPUC grants the request, it should clarify that recovery of ReMAT costs through the Public Policy Program charge would recover all ReMAT costs, not just the above-market costs, and the commission should ensure that all customers paying the costs of the resources benefit equally, the group said.

CalCCA argued that the ReMAT contracts serve public-policy goals as the IOUs state, but the benefits are not unique and are not the only benefits of the resources. CCA customers bear sole cost responsibility for unique requirements such as RPS and greenhouse gas-free energy procurement requirements that also have broad public-policy goals, CalCCA said.

“Beyond a doubt, bundled customers alone receive the direct benefits of these contracts,” it said.

Read more here: CCAs, Others Oppose IOU Effort to Reallocate Renewables Contract Costs | Regulation Status | newsdata.com

 

 

California opens rulemaking on provider of last resort, as customers move away from utilities

Utility Dive

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) opened a rulemaking Thursday to implement a provider of last resort (POLR) framework for the state, to ensure customers will receive electricity even if their power provider goes under or isn’t able to continue service.

Investor-owned utilities in the state currently serve as the POLR in each of their service territories. But in a second phase of the new rulemaking, regulators intend to focus on other entities that could take on that role.

A POLR, essentially a utility or entity that is obliged to serve all customers, isn’t specific to the electric sector — telecommunications carriers of last resort, for instance, have existed since the 1990s. In California, the concept has become especially relevant since the state restructured its electricity markets and transitioned away from vertically-integrated utilities that controlled generation, transmission and distribution, to a more competitive landscape.

Now, a host of other entities — like community choice aggregators (CCAs) and direct access providers, can provide customers with electricity. Moreover, customers have increasingly been turning to distributed solar and storage resources. As a result, a large chunk of load in the state is no longer in the hands of investor-owned utilities.

The California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) welcomes the discussion around improving the POLR process and “believes policies should be updated to reflect the reality of today’s electricity market in California, one in which CCAs serve the vast majority of customers in their service territories”, the group said in an emailed statement.

“We look forward to engaging in the CPUC rulemaking to ensure CCAs have a clear pathway to be designated as POLR,” CalCCA added.

Read more here: California opens rulemaking on provider of last resort, as customers move away from utilities | Utility Dive

CCAs, Others Oppose IOU Effort to Reallocate Renewables Contract Costs

California Energy Markets

Community choice aggregators  and others are opposing a request by investor-owned utilities to shift the allocation of costs for certain renewable-energy contracts from IOU customers to departing customers.

CCAs, Shell Energy North America and Alliance for Retail Energy Markets told state regulators they oppose the Feb. 11 petition by two IOUs regarding contracts for the Renewable Market Adjusting Tariff, or ReMAT, program. Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison filed the petition for modification with the California Public Utilities Commission, saying there are cost-allocation inequities around the contracts.

The California Community Choice Association in March 15 comments told the CPUC it is concerned about continued eroding of the PCIA methodology by shifting IOU costs onto departing customers. The IOUs’ customers would retain the prime benefits of the contracts, including resource-adequacy and RPS attributes, CalCCA said.

“To ask all customers to pay the costs of the resources without sharing equally in the benefit effectuates a cost shift from bundled to departing load customers,” CalCCA said, asking the CPUC to reject the petition.

Read more here: CCAs, Others Oppose IOU Effort to Reallocate Renewables Contract Costs | Regulation Status | newsdata.com

CalCCA Executive Director chats with The Green Insider about the future of CCAs, California’s changing energy landscape, and energy innovation

eRenewable

We head out to the West Coast for Episode 28 and welcome Beth Vaughan to the program, Executive Director of the California Community Choice Association. A 20+ year veteran of the California Energy scene, Vaughan takes us through her career starting out in New Zealand and the adaptation she made traversing through state policy in the Golden State and working alongside – although not always harmoniously – the large-scale investor-owned utilities.

Now as Exec. Director of the Cal-CCA, Vaughan is as the helm of bringing more than 20 CCAs together, is responsible for 10M customers and has helped spur innovation that is benefitting all Californians. And with it being March and International Women’s Month, Vaughan shares how women in the energy ranks are making a major impact – starting with the Cal-CCA.

It’s an entertaining and highly informative listen – so sit back and enjoy.

Listen here: The Green Insider – Ep. 28 – Beth Vaughan – Exec. Director – Cal-CCA – eRENEW

 

 

Sonoma Clean Power launches “Bike Electric” program; $1000 available for new e-bike purchases

The Mendocino Voice

Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) customers who meet income qualifications will now be eligible to receive $1,000 off the purchase of a new electric bicycle, due to a new program.

Starting today, customers who “qualify for CARE/FERA (state programs that provide discounted electric rates administered by PG&E), CalFresh/SNAP, LIHEAP, Head Start, and other income-based assistance programs can apply to receive $1,000 off the purchase of an eBike,” according a SCP press release. Once approved, customers can make purchases at approved retailers to receive the rebate.

In SCP’s service territory where transportation is the leading source of community-wide emissions, supporting the regional transition from gas-powered vehicles to vehicles fueled by clean electricity has long been a priority of the Agency.

Read more here: Sonoma Clean Power launches “Bike Electric” program; $1000 available for new e-bike purchases | The Mendocino Voice

EBCE Exploring New Approach to Energy Saving

Renewable Energy Magazine

As EBCE moves toward a zero-emission power system over the next decade, a key technical problem is the evening peak. Plentiful and low cost solar power makes it easy to meet daytime power demand, but as the sun goes down something else needs to be available. Most often now that means burning natural gas in power plants, which is not zero-emission. EBCE is contracting for energy storage as one solution, but another is to cut demand in those evening hours.

Through a new “Pay for Performance” approach, EBCE is paying energy efficiency contractors based on their ability to reduce demand during that evening peak, and to deliver verified savings to targeted customers.

In 2019, EBCE began developing Pay for Performance pilot programs aimed at single-family residential, commercial, and low-income residential customers. EBCE hired the firm Recurve to develop a dashboard that builds on EBCE’s in-house data analysis capabilities. EBCE’s early attention to data management helped accelerate the process by many months.

The dashboard analyzes customer loads in detail, creates baselines, and then tracks how customer load actually changes in response to energy measures. The dashboard is fed by the steady stream of sub-hourly data coming from smart meters, allowing EBCE to target the customers who would benefit the most from the program and deliver the highest value to EBCE.

Customers with high demand during evening peak hours (blue line) are filtered from the general population (red dotted line); programs then can target those customers with the most potential to save.

“For the low-income pilot, we can identify a customer on a rate discount program like CARE or FERA, who uses a lot of energy during peak hours,” says Beckie Menten, EBCE’s program manager for building electrification and energy efficiency. “Some low-income households spend as much as 12% of their income on energy, which is many times higher than more affluent customers.” This helps the customer save on their energy costs and decrease the proportion of their monthly income that needs to go towards utility bills.

“By providing specific efficiency improvements that cut their demand during expensive peak hours, we lower their bills, and we also reduce EBCE’s need to provide that power, which saves money for all our customers,” says Menten. “It will also help ease the transition to time-of-use rates, which phase in this year.”

Read more here: Energy saving – EBCE Exploring New Approach to Energy Saving – Renewable Energy Magazine, at the heart of clean energy journalism

Offshore Wind Power Coming to California

California Currents

Offshore wind power is heading the Golden State’s way, first to serve the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, a panel of energy experts at a California Community Choice Association webinar said Feb. 26. This renewable technology has already gained favor in Europe, Asia, and on the East Coast of the U.S.

The Redwood Coast authority project is expected to be operational as early as 2027. It will supply 120-150 MW of wind power from floating turbines that will be moored about 25 miles off the coast of Eureka.

Technology that allows the mooring of large floating turbines to California’s deep seafloor is “now available,” Matthew Marshall, Redwood Coast Energy Authority executive director, said.

Currently, a lease application for the project, expected to be California’s first offshore wind facility, is pending with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, according to Marshall.

Other areas off the California Coast also have world class wind resources. That includes off Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo County, where coastal power plants linked to the state’s power grid by transmissions lines are slated to close.

West Ocean Winds is developing the Humboldt project, along with other companies, including Aker Offshore Wind. Aker is a San Francisco-based firm that builds floating platforms for offshore wind turbines in the Bay Area.

The platforms would be towed from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay in Eureka, where turbine towers would be mounted before towing them out to sea, Tyler Studds, head of project development for West Ocean Winds, said.

Read more here: Offshore Wind Power Coming to California – CA Current

Here comes San Diego Community Power: Five-city community choice energy program launches

The San Diego Union-Tribune

After seven years of discussion and debate, a five-city San Diego community choice energy program that will provide an alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric when it comes to purchasing sources of power has rolled out the first phase of its operations.

San Diego Community Power — consisting of San Diego, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Encinitas and Imperial Beach — began serving municipal accounts across the five cities Monday in places like school districts, fire stations and libraries. By the end of March, about 700 municipal customers are expected to be lined up.

The community choice aggregation, or CCA, program plans to add an additional 72,000 commercial and industrial customers in June and is scheduled to fold in 695,000 residential customers next January.

With about 767,700 total customers, San Diego Community Power, or SDCP for short, will be the second-largest CCA in California.

SDCP interim CEO Bill Carnahan and Chief Operating Officer Cody Hooven said that while rates vary by class, they estimate customers who opt for PowerOn will pay a monthly bill that is about 2 to 3 percent less expensive than SDG&E. If customers choose Power100, the costs will be about the same as SDG&E.

“All our advocates and families have been asking for is choice and competition, so we’re excited to be able to offer that,” Hooven said. “We can do big things here.”

Growing in popularity in California for just over a decade, CCAs now serve more than 11 million customers. With its launch, SDCP becomes the state’s 24th community choice energy program.

Read more here: Here comes San Diego Community Power: Five-city community choice energy program launches – The San Diego Union-Tribune

With a new incentive program, 3CE wants to help low-income customers purchase electric cars.

Monterey County NOW

The Electrify Your Ride EV Incentive Program sets aside a total of $700,000 for residential and commercial customers who purchase a battery electric, plug-in hybrid, electric motorcycle or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The money is available on a first-come, first-served basis—after purchasing or leasing a qualified vehicle, customers fill out an application to receive the cash-back incentive. Public agencies interested in electrifying their transportation fleets are also eligible for up to five vehicles per agency.

3CE especially wants to help low-income customers purchase electric cars. The incentives for income-qualified applicants (those enrolled in PG&E’s CARE or FERA discount programs, or the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) are double—up to $4,000 for a new battery electric vehicle. “I’m hopeful that a lot of this money that we’ve set aside will be used by the community,” says Shelly Whitworth, senior energy media specialist at 3CE. “We all have an even larger hope that a lot of the residents who do participate in the program are in our income-qualified community.”

To reach these people, Whitworth says, 3CE has partnered with various membership organizations including Regeneración, a climate justice organization in Watsonville, and Ecology Action in Santa Cruz. Education about the different incentive programs that exist and how to stack them, Whitworth says, is a definite hurdle to adoption. Making an eco-conscious decision, like choosing to buy an electric vehicle, shouldn’t be something that is only accessible to the wealthy. An initiative like this one can move the needle on that.

Read more here: With a new incentive program, 3CE wants to help low-income customers purchase electric cars. | Monterey County NOW Intro | montereycountyweekly.com