CCAs Bid for EV Infrastructure Funding

California Energy Markets

Community choice aggregators in California are well poised to promote widespread electric-vehicle infrastructure adoption, especially to support post-pandemic economic recovery, according to a May 29 webinar hosted by the California Community Choice Association.

Panelists discussed how communities can support the installation of EV charging stations by applying to the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project, the California Energy Commission’s incentive program for expanding the state’s charging network. Approximately $50 million in funding is available for 2021 under the CALeVIP program. The CEC will select its next group of grantees sometime in June or July, pending approval of the state budget.

While California has made great strides in reducing carbon emissions from the electricity sector, emissions due to transportation remain high. “Transportation has been the hardest nut to crack,” Kielan Rathjen, special advisor to the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, said during the webinar. Permitting and related costs are higher in California compared with other states, and local permitting offices take far longer to respond to applications; Electrify America said in its third-quarter 2019 report to the California Air Resources Board that the average permitting time in the state exceeds the national average by 70 percent. Rocky Mountain Institute found in a January report that installation costs in the U.S. are three to five times the cost of the charger, and that the greatest opportunity for cost reduction is in “soft costs” such as permitting time.

To address the bottlenecks, California legislators in 2015 passed Assembly Bill 1236 to streamline the permitting process. The CALeVIP program weighs AB 1236 compliance in determining future projects. “You are most competitive to receive CEC funding if you streamline,” Rathjen said.

East Bay Community Energy has committed $14.5 million in funding to match CALeVIP’s grant, which requires a 1-1 match, Jessie Denver, EBCE’s transportation electrification manager, said of the CCA’s effort to bring the CALeVIP program to Alameda County. CCAs are well equipped to implement the streamlining processes outlined in AB 1236, she said.

“Because CCAs like EBCE are not-for-profit public agencies, we are a joint-power authority of Alameda County, and the JPA is made up of each of our government partners . . . we’re well suited because we have that direct line of communication,” Denver said.

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California CCAs solicit info on long duration storage, with possible procurement launch this summer

Utility Dive

A group of 11 community choice aggregators (CCA) in California last week issued a request for information (RFI) for storage technologies with a minimum duration of eight hours. The CCAs are looking at long-duration storage for long-term resource planning, according to the RFI. State regulators have found that meeting electric sector greenhouse gas reduction targets could require around 1 GW of long-duration storage in play by 2026.

Depending on the responses to the RFI, some of the CCAs might launch a request for offers for long-duration storage, potentially as soon as this summer, CB Hall, senior power procurement manager at MCE, told Utility Dive. With the RFI, “we wanted to give the market a heads up that certain CCAs may be ready to move quicker than others,” Hall said.

The RFI is a first step in identifying resources that could meet these needs. The 11 CCAs — which include MCE, the Clean Power Alliance of Southern California, CleanPowerSF and Silicon Valley Clean Energy — are open “to a wide variety of proposals,” the request says.

But there are some requirements. Specifically, the CCAs are looking for technologies with a minimum eight-hour duration that can interconnect directly into either the transmission or distribution system and participate in the state’s electricity markets. In addition, they should qualify as “resource adequacy” resources with the CPUC and California Independent System Operator.

Responses to the RFI are due July 1.

“With the long duration storage RFI, CCAs are starting early as these are long-lead-time resources. By collaborating in this way CCAs can optimize their resource planning and procurement efforts, achieve economies of scale, and save ratepayer costs,” Girish Balachandran, CEO of Silicon Valley Clean Energy, said in an emailed statement.

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Community energy utilities in California investigate long duration energy storage

Energy Storage News

A group of 11 community-focused energy utility groups in California have issued a Request for Information on long duration energy storage technologies that could be connected to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) grid.

Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) are permitted to supply energy to residents in several US states. In California CCAs operate in the service areas of the major investor-owned utilities and benefit from the IOUs infrastructure, while being able to freely determine their energy suppliers and generation mix. Deanne Barrow, a senior associate at law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, who has worked on several deals involving CCAs, told recently that the CCAs role in procuring energy in the US is growing. has reported on several moves by CCAs to procure energy storage, both standalone and in combination with solar PV. Most recently, in early April this year, CCA CalChoice picked esVolta for a 15MW / 60MWh lithium-ion battery storage system to help provide Resource Adequacy in Santa Paula, a city in California’s Ventura County.

Later that month, thin-film solar technology company and project developer First Solar signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) with CCAs Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) for a 100MW solar PV plant combined with 20MW / 50MWh of battery energy storage systems.

Last week, the long duration request for information was published jointly by MBCP, SVCE and nine other CCAs: Clean Power Alliance of Southern California, CleanPowerSF, East Bay Community Energy, Marin Clean Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, San Jose Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power and Valley Clean Energy.

The groups are collecting information to help with their long-term resource planning, through which a need for long duration storage has been identified. The ‘Joint CCAs’ group also said the information may inform a “subsequent long-duration storage request for offers” that might be issued “as soon as this summer”, either by the CCAs in some combination, or individually.

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California CCAs issue request for information for long-duration storage

Public Power Daily
A group of California community choice aggregators has issued a request for information (RFI) that may inform a subsequent long-duration storage request for offers.

The RFI was issued on June 4 by the Clean Power Alliance of Southern California, CleanPowerSF, East Bay Community Energy, Marin Clean Energy, Monterey Bay Community Power, Peninsula Clean Energy, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, San Jose Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power and Valley Clean Energy.

One of the goals of the RFI is to collect information that may inform a subsequent long-duration storage RFO, which may be issued as soon as this summer by each of the CCAs individually, or some combination of the CCAs.

Another goal of the RFI is to collect information that will help the CCAs in their long-term resource planning, including identifying candidate resources for the long-duration storage need identified in a 2019-2020 reference system plan.

The CCAs noted that the RFI is open to all technologies with the potential to provide long-duration energy storage.

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Calif. community choice agencies add more big battery, solar deals

S&P Global

Local government-run community choice aggregators in California are continuing their solar-plus-storage shopping spree, with several new long-term contracts signed by Monterey Bay Community Power, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Clean Power Alliance.

In a May 27 announcement, Monterey Bay Community Power, or MBCP, and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, or SVCE, said they have signed 20-year solar photovoltaic and battery storage contracts with an affiliate of NextEra Energy for its Yellow Pine Solar project. The 250-MW Yellow Pine facility, also known as the Yellow Pine Energy Center, is under development in Clark County, Nev. Deliveries under the contracts will start in December 2022 and continue through November 2042.

The agreements add to a surging pipeline of solar-plus-storage and stand-alone battery projects in advanced stages of development or under construction in the Southwest aimed at enabling the next level of power-sector decarbonization in the region.

MBCP has contracted for 75 MW of solar generating capacity and 39 MW of energy storage to serve 5% of its annual retail load. A separate announcement by SVCE said that agency has contracted for 50 MW of solar generating capacity and 26 MW of energy storage to serve 4% of its annual retail load. Any contracts for the other half of the Yellow Pine project were not disclosed.

MBCP CEO Tom Habashi on May 27 reported that the agency’s board of directors on May 13 authorized him to execute MBCP’s contract of up to $193 million for solar and storage. For the storage portion of the MBCP’s contract, the 4-hour lithium-ion battery energy storage system will allow the shifting of up to 156 MWh of solar generation from one period to another, Habashi said.

At the time, the MBCP board also authorized the CEO to execute a 10-year resource adequacy agreement for 60 MW of capacity from a lithium-ion battery system that is being added to the existing California Flats Solar 130 and California Flats Solar 150 (California Flats Solar South) projects in Monterey County, Calif. The Cal Flats battery agreement is with Capital Dynamics Inc. and begins in August 2021, Habashi reported.

In Southern California, Clean Power Alliance, the state’s largest CCA serving roughly 3 million customers, has followed up its recently approved 15-year contract for the 100-MW Luna Battery Storage Project with additional deals for another major battery peaker system, a large-scale solar-plus-storage facility and a small-scale hydro project.

Approved during a May 7 Clean Power Alliance board meeting, a 15-year energy storage agreement with an affiliate of Terra-Gen LLC for the 100-MW Sanborn Storage project in Mojave, Calif., is scheduled to start by Aug. 1, 2021. The facility is part of Terra-Gen’s battery-backed Sanborn Solar Project adjacent to Edwards Air Force Base, where Southern California Edison Co. also recently signed a contract for 50 MW of storage as part of a package of deals.

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California CCAs Uniquely Positioned to Respond to Community Needs

California Energy Markets

Executives with community choice aggregators say their focus on “community” has been tested and demonstrated as their organizations respond to public-safety power shut-offs and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Girish Balachandran, CEO of Silicon Valley Clean Energy, and Nick Chaset, CEO of East Bay Community Energy, explained the challenges their respective organizations have faced since mid-March and how they have adapted to best help their customers and communities.

Their remarks were provided as part of “CCAs and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Impacts and Responses,” a May 19 webcast sponsored by The Climate Center and Clean Power Exchange.

 “How CCAs respond to community needs . . . that crystallized after the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County in 2017,” Woody Hastings, energy program manager for The Climate Center and the panel’s host, said. That choice and local control are inherent aspects of CCAs makes them “able to respond to any kind of calamity,” he said, adding that CCAs are now offering a wide array of new programs as part of their COVID-19 response, including bill deferments, credits for California Alternate Rates for Energy and Family Electric Rate Assistance customers, and donations to local community-based organizations.

Balachandran said when CCAs offer relief, they need to balance multiple goals and be “mission-aligned.” SVCE’s $10-million Customer Relief and Community Resiliency fund is designed to support the needs of its CARE and FERA customers, local small businesses, contractor workforce and member communities.

In addition to preparing for PSPS events through energy resilience, the funds will be allocated for specific assistance in response to the pandemic. This includes $3.5 million in customer bill assistance for residential and small business customers; $1.5 million for contractor training, which also includes incentives for installing electrical appliances in workplaces to support SVCE’s decarbonization efforts; $1 million for community resiliency planning grants; and $4 million for capital support of those plans. Another $2 million is set aside for contingency funding so changes can be made to the programs as needed, Balachandran said.

EBCE was able to redirect $1.5 million in funds immediately to community needs, Chaset said. Some of the funding was freed through canceled marketing and outreach programs, including an induction-cooking demonstration series in local restaurants. The funds were allocated “in four different ways,” he said. These included investments in clean energy and infrastructure and continued job creation as well as $1.1 million in donations to EBCE’s 12 member jurisdictions’ relief efforts.

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California’s Central Procurement Conundrum, and Why CCAs are Crying Foul

Centralizing resource adequacy procurement under utilities PG&E and SCE could undermine local clean energy projects, community choice aggregators say.

Greentech Media

After years of trying to get California’s disparate energy industry parties to agree on a way to centralize procurement for its Resource Adequacy (RA) program, the California Public Utilities Commission has moved to break the impasse.

But California’s community-choice aggregators (CCAs) say that the new plan, far from strengthening the state’s system for securing grid reliability in future years, could actually undermine a host of clean energy projects they’re working on — and they’re demanding some key fixes before the CPUC moves to vote on making it final in May.

The key problem with last month’s proposed decision (PDF), CCAs say, is that it hands the responsibility for procuring “local” resource adequacy to utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, and in so doing, takes away the financial incentives that CCAs have to contract for their own resources.

Local RA is the share of capacity identified by state grid operator CAISO to serve the urban centers of San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura regions and the greater San Francisco Bay Area, which combine high energy demand with transmission constraints that limit how much energy can flow from beyond their boundaries.

Compared to “system RA,” which can be located anywhere in the state, prices for this locally constrained RA are significantly higher — about 38 percent higher than system resource adequacy for the LA Basin, and 25 percent higher for the Bay Area and Ventura areas in 2018, according to CPUC data. That’s largely because these constrained areas have fewer natural gas plants, which still provide the majority of the state’s capacity needs. This scarcity tends to drive up the prices they can command from entities seeking local RA.

California utilities and CCAs are quickly contracting for more “preferred resources” — solar, wind, energy storage, demand response and other carbon-free resources — both to meet the state’s clean energy goals, and to fulfill their share of the CPUC’s November order seeking 3.3 gigawatts of resources to meet the state’s looming short-term reliability needs.

And many of these projects are planning to provide local resource adequacy, and are expecting the higher payments for that service to serve as part of the revenue stack they’ve built to be financially viable, according to Nick Chaset, CEO of East Bay Community Energy, the CCA serving the Bay Area’s Alameda County.

For example, EBCE plans to purchase local RA from the 36-megawatt Oakland Clean Energy battery project being built to replace an oil-fired power plant in west Oakland, he said. It’s expecting to be able to earn local RA from its 10-megawatt share of a joint procurement with other Bay Area CCAs of 30 megawatts of behind-the-meter storage and solar to provide resiliency against wildfire-prevention power outages for residents and critical facilities. The same goes for a 57.5-megawatt wind power project in rural Alameda County it’s planning to contract with to meet its reliability obligations.

All told, “we have contracts for just about 100 megawatts of local resource adequacy,” Chaset said. But “now, suddenly, there’s a huge uncertainty injected into those contracts — they may not count for local RA.”

Monica Padilla, power resources director for CCA Silicon Valley Clean Energy, agreed that the CPUC’s proposal could undermine its plans to procure the roughly 5 megawatts of behind-the-meter solar-storage it’s seeking as part of the joint 30 megawatt procurement. “This would definitely put that at risk.”

The CPUC’s central procurement structure wasn’t meant to undermine the work of the state’s 21 CCAs, which serve more than 170 cities and counties and more than 10 million customers. In fact, it decided against making San Diego Gas & Electric a central procurement entity (CPE), since its relatively isolated grid system requires it to obtain local resource adequacy for more than 80 percent of its total capacity, leaving little left for any other entity to procure on its own.

The CPUC didn’t see the same problem for PG&E and SCE, where local capacity accounts for 43 percent and 38 percent of total RA requirements, respectively, leaving CCAs with “substantial procurement autonomy.”

To allow them to make use of that autonomy, it proposes allowing CCAs to “show” their existing local RA values to reduce their procurement obligations, or to bid them against all the other resources, including natural gas plants, that are competing for PG&E and SCE’s business as buyers.

But according to Melissa Brandt, EBCE’s senior director of public policy and deputy general counsel, these are poor substitutes for being able to meet CCAs’ local RA requirements. The first option, of “showing” local RA, may reduce the total amount of local RA the utility needs to buy, but the CCA’s customers pay full price and only receive the same small fraction of the benefits as all other utility customers, Brandt said.

The second option may offer revenues, but only “if the procurement entity buys our project at auction,” which is a “very risky” proposition. Given these risks, it’s far less likely that CCAs will choose to invest in locally sited projects that require local RA revenues to pencil out, she said.

In contrast, with the resource adequacy premium, “we can justify investing in the project, which may cost more in Alameda County than, say, in Kern County,” in California’s Central Valley, where land and labor costs are lower. But without it, “you may say, maybe I won’t do solar-plus-storage — maybe I’ll just do the solar, or maybe I’ll just build it in Kern County.”

That decision would deprive the CCA’s customers of the local energy, resiliency and other benefits of a project that no longer pencils out, however. It would also deprive California’s grid system at large of a clean local capacity resource that, all other things being equal, would otherwise be filled by a gas-fired power plant.

The California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) trade group makes similar points in comments filed with the CPUC this week. “The local RA premium, while varying in time and location, can be significant and carries the potential to be the determining factor in a project decision,” it wrote.

The CPUC’s proposal “places this value at risk by leaving uncertainty about whether the CPE will select the [CCAs] local resource in its solicitation.”

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How Bay Area “Community Choice” energy programs are supporting us during COVID-19

Sierra Club

While many of us are stuck inside, it is likely that our energy usage has changed. For others who have lost work in this crisis, paying your electric bill may now be a concern. To help navigate your energy resources during this confusing time, we’ve collected the responses of local Bay Area Community Choice energy providers — East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), MCE, CleanPowerSF, and Peninsula Clean Energy — to COVID-19 in one place. Hopefully this helps those of you concerned about changes in service, as well as providing information about additional customer support and protections that are being implemented in response to the pandemic.

Across the board, these efforts are a strong response to the pandemic, and reflect how we can support one another in these trying times. In responding to COVID-19, we need to be working to make a down payment on a regenerative economy, and our local Community Choice energy programs have shown themselves to be leaders in modeling the compassionate future we need to build together.

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Industry, Regulators Work to Comprehend Impact of COVID-19 on Business

California Energy Markets

The COVID-19 pandemic has quickly rifled through California’s energy industry, erasing nearly 20,000 clean-energy jobs in the state in March and creating uncertainty over unpaid electric bills, project contracting, financing, construction and permitting.

Beth Vaughan, executive director of the California Community Choice Association, said it is still too soon to know how much CCAs and their customers will be affected in terms of customer nonpayment. Unlike rent payments, which largely occur on the same day, ratepayers have different bill-payment schedules. Utilities bill customers on behalf of CCAs.

“There is a lot of ‘I don’t know’ at this point in terms of impact, but we are setting up systems to track that,” Vaughan said in an April 16 video interview. “Number one is the customer . . . number one is how the state takes care of the customer.”

She noted that CCAs are still executing contracts, such as an April 16 announcement by East Bay Community Energy of a contract for 16.25 MW of battery storage capacity in downtown Oakland (see related story). It is the construction phase of projects that will be more complicated, including materials, supply chain and financing, where there is suddenly a great number of unknowns, according to Vaughan. “The CCAs are still open for business,” she said.

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California Gets Another 100MW Battery Project, as Competition with Gas Peakers Heats Up

Greentech Media

Developer sPower will build a huge battery facility in Los Angeles County for Clean Power Alliance, a community choice aggregator

Big things are happening in California this week. In the political sphere, Gov. Gavin Newsom is invoking the powers of a “nation-state” to provide life-saving medical supplies that the federal government isn’t. In the power sector, another 100 megawatt battery just got contracted to support the grid near Los Angeles.

Clean Power Alliance, a local power purchasing authority or “community choice aggregator” for 1 million customer accounts in the greater L.A. region, signed the deal with independent power producer sPower Thursday. The signing ceremony took place over GoToMeeting video chat, because it’s April 2020.

This marks the first battery deal for Clean Power Alliance. It’s also the first time a CCA, a relatively new structure in the California power scene, enters the rarefied “100 Megawatt Club.” That’s equivalent to the largest battery in the world by megawatt capacity — the Tesla-supplied Hornsdale plant in South Australia — though Clean Power Alliance’s project will have considerably longer duration, at 400 megawatt-hours.

sPower will own and operate the Luna Storage facility. It will build the $100 million project with union labor in Lancaster, at the northern edge of Los Angeles County, a little over an hour drive from downtown L.A. in the rare event that the 101 and the 5 have emptied due to a general cessation of civic life.

Even larger power producer AES acquired sPower , in partnership with the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, for $853 million 2017. sPower operates independently, but the project mirrors an earlier effort by its corporate parent: AES became the first to contract a battery of this size when utility Southern California Edison awarded it the Alamitos contract in 2014.

Also this week, the California Choice Energy Authority, a consortium of five community choice aggregators, signed a deal with developer esVolta to build the 15 megawatt/60 megawatt-hour Black Walnut Energy Storage project in Santa Paula.

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