Tag Archives: Sdg&e

California’s Distributed Energy Grid Plans: The Next Steps

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

Last week, after a year of behind-the-scenes work and much public debate, California’s big three investor-owned utilities turned in their long-awaited distribution resource plans (DRPs). These DRPs are essentially blueprints for how Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric are going to merge rooftop solar, behind-the-meter energy storage, plug-in electric vehicles and other distributed energy resources (DERs) into their day-to-day grid operations and long-range distribution grid planning and investment regimes.

Each California utility has created mapping tools that show how much capacity is available on each distribution circuit for new DER interconnection, for instance — something that could be very useful for distributed energy developers. All three utilities have also agreed on a common set of measures for how DERs could help shore up grid capacity, increase reliability, serve system-wide needs, and otherwise stand in for costly utility upgrades. And each has laid out how it plans to fold these DRP methodologies into their general rate cases (GRCs), the once-every-three-years process that determines how much each can charge its customers for its capital and operating costs for the coming years.

Many questions remain about how to determine which combination of DERs will meet the least-cost models that utilities use to rank their distribution grid upgrades, and what kinds of new capabilities grid-supporting DERs will need to have to serve as replacements for utility investments. There’s also much uncertainty about how DERs serving as stand-ins for grid infrastructure should be paid for, and how their costs and benefits should be shared. These issues are of major interest for solar-storage combinations from SolarCity and Tesla, SunEdison and Green Charge Networks, Sungevity and Sonnenbatterie, and SunPower and partners Stem and Sunverge, which see an opportunity for earning grid services revenues as stand-ins for distribution grid investments. They’re also important for the commercial building and residential energy management platform providers looking for ways to tap California’s emerging opportunities for distributed demand response.

These costs and values wouldn’t just flow from utilities and their customers to DER providers—each utility’s DRP asks the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for permission to spend lots of money on beefing up their own systems to enable their visions. Southern California Edison alone is estimating its DRP-related capital expenditures could add up to $347 million to $560 million over the next three years, for example, and PG&E and SDG&E will also be seeking new funding, though they haven’t yet specified how much.

All three DRPs add up to nearly 1,000 pages, which makes it hard to summarize all the next steps they contain, but here are a few highlights of the challenges to come.

Read full article from Greentech Media

Related articles: How California’s biggest utilities plan to integrate distributed resources (Utility Dive)

Inside the nation’s first renewables-plus-storage microgrid

By Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Borrego Springs, California, sits less than 100 miles from San Diego, but in terms of electric reliability the two places were once worlds apart. San Diego Gas & Electric serves 3.4 million consumers with 1.4 million electric meters in its territory. And last year – for the ninth consecutive year – it was named the most reliable Western utility by PA Consulting Group.  But if you lived in Borrego Springs, an isolated desert community surrounded by a state park, your utility experience was markedly different.

“That area has seen outages over the years, some lasting days on end,” according to Jim Avery, SDG&E’s chief development officer. “Borrego Springs is served by one radial transmission line traversing 60 miles of exposure. It is susceptible to wildfires, windstorms, flooding and hail.” After wildfires knocked out power to the area in 2007 for two days, the utility took a hard look at how to better supply residents and businesses. About 2,800 people live in the community, which is entirely surrounded by Anza-Borrego State Park, the largest park in California.

“As a result of the wildfires, we decided we were going to rethink the way we served communities such as Borrego Springs,” Avery said. “We started our quest for designing a fully-integrated microgrid, one that could integrate conventional sources of generation, renewable sources, such as rooftop solar, as well as substation and utility-scale solar.” The system also includes distributed energy storage and batteries located at substations. With the help of $8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, “we’ve gone through an evolution in the last seven years towards building that ultimate microgrid,” Avery said. “And we’ve had some opportunities to test it under different conditions.”

The grid was used to avoid some smaller outages, and then earlier this year the California Energy Commission awarded the utility a $5 million grant to expand, allowing it to interconnect with the nearby 26-MW Borrego Springs solar facility.

In late spring, major flooding did damage to SDG&E’s transmission corridor – potentially leaving customers in the dark again. Historically, that would have meant a 10-hour outage as the utility rebuilt the poles. “We would have had customers out of service for almost an entire day,” Avery said. “But because the microgrid was up and running we were able to switch over all of our customers to be fed by the rooftop solar systems scattered out in the community, in addition the large-scale solar, and it was all balanced by the batteries located on the distribution line and at our substations.” Borrego Springs’ peak load is about 14 MW, and rooftop plus utility-scale solar give the community about 30 MW of generation. The batteries can store about 1.5 MW.

Borrego Springs isn’t the only microgrid out there, of course. It’s not even the only one operated by SDG&E, which has a few other grids in place for voltage regulation. But, according to Avery, it is the first of its kind to power an entire community with renewable energy.

Read full article from Utility Dive

California electricity prices to rise for those who use the least

By David R. Baker, The San Francisco Chronicle

Californians’ electricity rates are about to undergo their most sweeping changes since the state’s energy crisis 15 years ago, cutting costs for people who use large amounts of power while raising bills for more efficient homeowners. The question is, how many people will pay more?

The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote Friday on two competing proposals to radically revamp the way electricity rates work at the state’s big, investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. Both proposals would narrow the gap between prices paid by people who use large amounts of electricity and those who use less. But one proposal, backed by the utilities, would go further than the other, raising utility bills at least $10 per month for an estimated 80 percent of residential customers next year as a result. It would also eventually allow the utilities to impose a fixed monthly charge on all customers, an idea the companies like but consumer advocates hate. The second proposal, from Commissioner Mike Florio, would boost monthly bills at least $10 for 35 percent of residential customers, and explicitly rejects fixed monthly charges.

The issue has been the subject of a fierce lobbying fight ever since 2013, when California legislators authorized the commission to reform electricity rates from top to bottom. Utilities, consumer groups, business associations and solar companies all entered the fray, each trying to tweak the details to their advantage. While arguing over how to fix it, most agreed the current system wouldn’t last.

No element of rate reform provoked a bigger fight than fixed charges. Utilities consider them a way to make sure everyone pays the cost of maintaining the electrical grid, at a time when an increasing number of homeowners are installing solar panels to generate their own electricity.

Read full article in the San Francisco Chronicle

Here Are San Diego’s Solar Hotspots

By Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego

San Diego’s one of the nation’s solar boom towns. The boom’s been most robust in northern communities away from the coast.

Data released by San Diego Gas & Electric shows the county’s top rooftop solar meccas are east of Interstate 5 and mostly represent people who own their homes instead of renting. Homeowners further from the coast often have higher energy bills that can make solar panels a more attractive investment. Hotspots include Poway, Scripps Ranch, Rancho Bernardo, Ramona and Lakeside.

The SDG&E data is based on the number of solar net energy metering connections — a state-mandated arrangement that allows solar customers to receive credit for energy their systems produce — per ZIP code.

This map shows net metering applications by ZIP code, plus the estimated kilowatts of power the area’s solar panels could produce.

Read full article from Voice of San Diego

SDG&E microgrid uses solar, storage to avoid outage in small town

By Robert Walton, Utility Dive

SDG&E has pulled off what it believes is the nation’s first example of a renewables-fueled microgrid being used to provide power for an entire town in a real-world scenario.

The utility used the Borrego Springs Microgrid on May 21st after the transmission line that usually feeds the community was damaged by lightning. SDG&E said its crews needed to replace or repair three transmission poles, which would usually require a 10-hour sustained outage.

Just before 9 a.m. on May 21, the utility “seamlessly” switched the Borrego Springs community over to microgrid power, and then switched it back nine hours later when maintenance was complete. The microgrid was predominantly fueled by the nearby 26 MW Borrego Solar facility (owned by NRG Energy), and the utility used distributed generation to “follow the load” and fill in power fluctuations from the solar facility. As of the completion of the demonstration project, the Borrego Springs microgrid consisted of two 1.8 MW diesel generators, a 1500 kWh (500 kW) battery at the substation, three smaller 50 kWh batteries, six 8 kWh home batteries, and 700 kW of solar, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

SDG&E said that using solar generation to power Borrego Springs was one of the primary goals of a $5 million California Energy Commission grant, making it one of the nation’s largest microgrids that can operate solely on renewable energy.

Read full article from Utility Dive

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Required Reading on San Diego’s Solar Surge

By Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego

San Diego is considered a national solar hotspot. This spring, the nonprofit Environment California Research & Policy Center dubbed San Diego the No. 2 solar city in the U.S. in a national survey. That same report noted San Diego’s solar growth outpaced Los Angeles, the nation’s top solar mecca.

Yet the region and the rest of the nation are approaching a crossroads. Some solar policies and incentives are nearing near expiration, and utilities such San Diego Gas & Electric are looking to up charges for solar customers as the technology becomes more widespread.

San Diego’s Solar Status

  • Power grid: SDG&E believes that solar could create challenges for San Diego’s grid when it reaches 15 percent penetration and are working on potential solutions. As of last month, about 4 percent of SDG&E customers were solar customers.
  • Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS): SDG&E forecasts that it will meet the state’s RPS mandate of 33 percent renewable electricity well ahead of the 2020 deadline and derived 30 percent of annual retail sales from renewables in 2014. The utility says the amount of renewable energy in its resource portfolio has since risen to 32 percent, and it could meet the 33% RPS target sometime this year (figures do not include rooftop solar).
  • Rate restructuring: SDG&E wants to change its current rate structure and its proposed tweaks have frustrated some big solar customers. Five San Diego County school districts filed protests to SDG&E’s suggested peak pricing period, which the utility wants to shift from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. They argue the change would mean their solar investments don’t pencil out as planned, leaving less money to spend on students.
  • Local investment in solar: Local governments are ramping up their solar commitments as well. In March, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved updates to the county’s building code that require new homes in unincorporated areas of the county to be built solar panel-ready. The city of San Diego is also working on a Climate Action Plan that encourages more solar investment, namely with its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

Read full article from Voice of San Diego


California Utilities Ready Plans For Community Solar Programs

By Herman K. Trabish, Utility Drive

As mandated by Senate Bill 43, California is about to initiate a community shared solar program requiring its three dominant investor-owned utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric — to obtain 600 megawatts of new capacity by 2019. Solar advocates question the affordability of the utility programs.

Rooftop solar installers do not expect the community shared solar arrays to interfere with their business opportunities because subscribers are expected to be from the 48% of businesses and 49% of residences that do not have solar-suitable roofs. It could compete with municipal governments’ community-choice aggregation programs.

Read full article from Utility Drive