Tag Archives: Utilities

Los Angeles’s Low-Priced Solar Power Has Problems Coming Its Way

By Cassie McCorkle, Energy Industry Reports

It has been more than a month that Los Angeles has signed a contract for record-cheap solar power and the officials are trying to deny it. The labor union is concerned over Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision to put an end to the three gas-fired power plants. It has been clearly mentioned in the 25-year contract signed with 8minute Solar Energy that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will pay 2 cents per kilowatt-hour or lower. This is the lowest price ever waged for solar power in the US and it is lower than the cost of electricity generated from the natural gas-fired power plant. The Eland project has 200 Megawatts of lithium-ion batteries planned other than the 400 Megawatts of solar power to store solar power for a complete day and to let it into the grid for 4 Hours each night.

The combined payment of L.A. payers for solar power could be 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour. The concerns of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 have forced the City Council to not approve the contract. IBEW Local 18 is concerned that Garcetti’s “Green New Deal” initiative has shutdown 3 coastal gas plants and would result in unemployment of 400 LADWP workers. The workers consider Garcetti’s plans to create unemployment and increase electricity prices. Others may consider the current plan as a childlike proposal but as per the Mayor, the Eland project may not replace the large plants instead can help reduce the dependency on gas. The pricing of 8minute that relies on the federal investment tax credit for solar energy is expected to drop by 26% by this year end. By December, the company plans to start construction to be eligible for the 30% tax credit.

Similarly, a 500 MW project is on its way to construction, as per the Kern County Board of Supervisors. This new project is the one more addition to the long list of large projects taking place in California. This project is a part of the Eland 1 Solar Project: 8minutenergy. The project will be started only after the Eland 1 Solar is approved.

Read full article from Energy Industry Reports

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LA & 8Minute Solar ink lowest cost solar-plus-storage deal in U.S. history

By Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has signed a groundbreaking 25-year power purchase agreement with 8Minute Solar. The deal will make possible the largest municipal solar plus storage facility in the US. But the best part is the combined price for solar energy plus storage is just 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, the lowest ever in the US and cheaper than electricity from a natural gas powered generating plant.

The electricity will come from a massive solar power plant located on 2000 acres of undeveloped desert in Kern County, just 70 miles from the city. Known as the Eland Solar and Storage Center, it will be built in two stages of 200 MW each, with the first coming online in 2022 and the second phase scheduled to be switched on the following year.

Los Angeles DWP will take 375 MWac of solar power coupled with 385.5 MW/1,150 MWh of energy storage, according to PV Magazine. Neighboring Glendale Water and Power will take 25 MWac of solar plus 12.5 MW/50 MWh of energy. The electricity from Eland I and II is expected to meet between 6 and 7% of Los Angeles’ needs, according to PV Magazine.

The Eland Solar & Storage Center has been engineered by 8minute to provide fully dispatchable power under control of the LADWP to meet its customers’ demands with reliable and cost-effective power — a capability previously reserved for large fossil fuel power plants. Eland’s ability to provide fully dispatchable power for less than the traditional cost of fossil fuels effectively positions solar PV as an attractive candidate to be the primary source of California’s 100% clean energy future.

Read full article from CleanTechnica

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SDG&E looks to raise minimum bill 400%, citing solar-driven cost shift

By Robert Walton, Utility Dive

Dive Brief:

  • San Diego Gas & Electric earlier this summer said it wants to raise its minimum bills by almost 400%, along with a $10 fixed charge, a move the utility says is necessary to combat the $420 million annual cost shift between residential customers with and without solar panels.
  • By next spring, the utility wants to raise the minimum bill to $1.26/day, or $38.19 per bill based on a 30-day billing cycle, effective March 1, 2020. Some vulnerable groups of customers would be eligible for a 50% discount on the minimum bill, according to SDG&E.
  • Several groups want to keep the minimum bill where it is, around $10, with no fixed charge. According to The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a minimum bill charge should be crafted so that customers with lower usage don’t wind up paying higher bills.

Dive Insight:

As California adds more renewable and ​distributed energy, SDG&E told the state’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that its proposal for a “modest” fixed charge for all residential customers “is a critical first step toward an evolving rate design.”

“For the California utilities to continue to evolve to provide the services that the commission and customers want, then all customers who use and benefit from the grid will need to start to share in the cost of building, maintaining and operating it,” SDG&E said in its June testimony.

That means rates that allow for a fixed charge to recover fixed costs from all customers, according to the utility. “The antiquated rate design model of recovering fixed costs in volumetric rates is no longer a viable option that can promote fairness to all customers.”

SDG&E says its work to overhaul rates is consistent with 2013 legislation that required utilities to reduce the number of energy pricing tiers, incorporate time-of-use pricing, allow for a fixed charge of up to $10/month and “provide solutions to the increasing cost burden on customers who do not have private rooftop solar.”

Read full article from Utility Dive

Related Article: San Diego Gas and Electric looks to quadruple customers’ minimum monthly bill (PV Magazine) – Sept. 3, 2019

 

Los Angeles has lined up record-cheap solar power. But there’s a problem

By Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles has been sitting on a contract for record-cheap solar power for more than a month — and city officials declined to approve it Tuesday because of concerns raised by the city-run utility’s labor union, which is still fuming over Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision to shut down three gas-fired power plants.

Under the 25-year contract with developer 8minute Solar Energy, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power would pay less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour — a number city officials and independent experts say would be the lowest price ever paid for solar power in the United States, and cheaper than the cost of electricity from a typical natural gas-fired power plant.

In addition to 400 megawatts of solar power, the Eland project would include at least 200 megawatts of lithium-ion batteries, capable of storing solar power during the day and injecting it into the grid for four hours each night. The combined price to L.A. ratepayers of the solar and storage would be 3.3 cents per kilowatt-hour — also a record low for this type of contract.

But LADWP’s Board of Commissioners voted not to send the contract to the City Council for approval, after utility staff said concerns had been raised by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents utility employees. In recent months, IBEW Local 18 has run television and radio ads attacking Garcetti’s Green New Deal initiative, which includes the retirement of three coastal gas plants that employ more than 400 LADWP workers.

…The Eland project, which is planned for the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, wouldn’t replace those gas plants. But it could help L.A. reduce its reliance on gas, which has become California’s largest electricity source as utilities look for evening power sources to fill in for solar after the sun goes down.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Times

Opinion: An uncertain path to a cleaner future – Zero carbon electricity legislation in New York and California

By Thomas R. Brill & Steven C. Russo (Greenberg Traurig), Utility Dive

Last month, New York passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which calls for a carbon free electricity market by 2040. With passage of this law, New York became the sixth state to pass legislation calling for a carbon free electricity market. Just one year earlier, California passed similar legislation, SB100, adopting a state policy to achieve a zero-carbon electricity market by 2045.

These goals will have to be pursued notwithstanding the fact demand for electricity is projected to increase as other sectors pursue beneficial electrification to comply with ambitious emission reduction goals they face. Whether these goals can be achieved, and at what cost, will depend on technology advancements and how these laws are interpreted and implemented by regulators.

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires 70% of electricity consumed in New York be generated by renewable resources by 2030 and the state must be carbon free by 2040. California’s SB100 requires 60% of electricity come from renewable resources by 2030 and adopts a state policy of a 100% zero carbon electricity by 2045.

The New York legislation explicitly conditions meeting these extraordinarily ambitious renewable energy mandates on maintaining reliability and affordability. This leads to obvious questions: Can a zero-carbon electricity market be achieved in a manner that maintains reliability and affordability, and if so, how? What flexibility exists under these laws to ensure these emission reduction goals can be achieved even if new technologies or significant price declines fail to materialize?

Read full article from Utility Dive

The Looming Bankruptcy Battle Over PG&E’s Renewable Energy Contracts

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

If Pacific Gas & Electric goes bankrupt, who gets final say over whether it can renegotiate its old and expensive solar power-purchase agreements — federal regulators or the bankruptcy court?

This multibillion-dollar question has come to the fore as PG&E, overwhelmed by tens of billions of dollars in potential wildfire liabilities, prepares to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as early as tomorrow.

Last week, PG&E solar provider NextEra asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use its authority under the Federal Power Act to order the utility not to “abrogate, amend or reject in bankruptcy any of the rates, terms and conditions of its wholesale power-purchase agreements,” including hundreds of megawatts of decade-old solar farms that are selling power at far above today’s market rates. Consolidated Edison, which counts PG&E as an offtaker for nearly one-third of its renewable energy portfolio, also weighed in last week to ask FERC to expedite NextEra’s request.

Late Friday, FERC offered these companies a lifeline, with an order declaring that it has “concurrent jurisdiction” with federal bankruptcy courts over whether utilities in bankruptcy can breach their contracts. But PG&E, even though it hasn’t filed for bankruptcy yet, maintains that a bankruptcy court, not FERC, should decide which PPAs and other power-purchase contracts it can breach and which it can’t. 

Read full article from Greentech Media

What this summer’s heat waves tell us about America’s electric grid

By Tim O’Connor, Environmental Defense Fund – Energy Exchange Blog

With another triple-digit heat wave scorching the Southwest this week, fears of widespread outages are back. California’s grid operator has urged homes and businesses to crank up thermostats and avoid running power-hungry appliances during evening peak hours – all in an effort to avoid disruptions like the ones we saw earlier this month.

The dangerous and expensive outages that left 80,000 Los Angeles residents in the dark then may have been limited to Southern California, but they should sound alarms nationwide. The world is changing, affecting how our grid works.

Utilities are taking steps to adapt and expand their power systems to maintain reliability and accommodate the growth of renewables, but they need to pick up the pace – and fast.

The most basic issue all electric grid operators grapple with is whether they’ll have enough capacity and supply to meet electricity demands of a growing population. Interestingly, California is expected to have enough electricity to go around this week – just like it did during the recent outage in LA.

What failed in early July was not the state’s power mix or supply, but the grid which – like an old car on the side of the road – had overheated and shut down in some places. Grid infrastructure investments and business models simply aren’t keeping up with technology advancements and changing consumer needs of today’s America.

Read full op-ed from EDF’s Energy Exchange blog

 

Solar is Generation of Choice in California

By Robert Mullin, RTO Insider

California’s second-largest publicly owned utility is “not buying anything other than solar right now,” said Arlen Orchard, CEO of Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). Orchard’s comment reflected prevailing opinion at the Infocast California Energy Summit last week: Solar is the generation of choice now in California — and its role will only grow.

For SMUD, the decision to go with solar is a financial one. Despite historically low natural gas prices, California’s environmental mandates — such as emissions caps and a ban on once-through cooling — make investment in even the most efficient new gas-fired generation less attractive than solar, even in the resource-constrained Los Angeles basin. “It sounds like for a lot of reasons, building more gas-fired generation in L.A. is not going to happen,” said Charles Adamson, principal manager with Southern California Edison, also pointing out the political unpopularity of building new gas generation in the state.

In Northern California, the alternatives to solar are other — more expensive — renewable resources. “Solar was once the most expensive — now it’s the lowest cost,” said Jan Smutny-Jones, CEO of the Independent Energy Producers Association, whose membership includes gas-fired and renewable merchant generators.

Declining solar costs are attracting the interest of more than just traditional utilities, according to Mark Fillinger, director of project development for First Solar. California’s investor-owned utilities have effectively met the state’s 33% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard. Fillinger said his company is now seeing a “huge shift” in demand from those customers to large “direct access” commercial and industrial clients who choose to purchase power from an independent electricity supplier rather than a regulated utility.

Read full article from RTO Insider

California’s Distributed Energy Future

GTM Research has established itself as the premier source of information on solar industry trends and developments in the United States. It’s instructive that from that perspective, they chose to organize a conference focusing on a single state, California.

We who participate in the solar industry here have recognized the state as a leader, but the less patronizing among us also recognize that the magnitude of this lead is only temporary. If solar is to realize its potential as one means of reducing environmental damage while reducing future customer utility costs, then other parts of the United States need to catch up (and as GTM’s latest data for 2015 shows, they are).

Nonetheless, as GTM Research Senior Vice President Shayle Kann observed in his opening keynote at GTM’s California Distributed Energy Future conference in San Francisco, California remains the epicenter of next generation distributed energy (DE) regulation and is at the forefront of the shift toward distributed energy in the U.S. And (I would add) what happens in California doesn’t always stay in California. Hence the conference to examine California’s transition to a distributed energy future and consider what’s working and what isn’t.

The discussions at the conference covered a variety of issues confronting the state. Here is an overview of the key themes coming out of the discussions, and the insights shared by the different speakers:

The strongest and most frequently recurring theme was that of the interaction of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs, essentially distributed solar PV) and the electrical grid. This issue has numerous dimensions, and subsequent “fireside chats” helped highlight some of these.

Appropriately the first discussion was with a Senior Vice President from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest investor-owned utility (IOU) and the utility with more connected PV capacity than any other in the United States. Issues were fairly raised: e.g., how should rates be structured to fairly compensate the value of Grid access received by the customer, how does PG&E envision an environment of growing Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) systems and how is the Grid managed for reliability. Unfortunately, the moderator for this session let the PG&E representative off with the stock, PR answers: “we have to make changes in our rate structures”, “they can work, note how long Marin (Clean Energy, 2010) and Sonoma (Clean Power, 2014) have been in service”, and “we need to build in robustness.”

Ah well, at least subsequent chats returned to DER issues in more depth. DERs can lower costs for Grid operators / managers; experiments were cited by both Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) involving combinations of storage and DERs. Time of Use (TOU) pricing is coming, and 150 studies worldwide on this issue indicate that customers like this. But there is just too little experience with California’s residential customers while the customers themselves have too little information on which to make decisions as to costs versus savings.

Questions were also raised about Grid planning, to which respondents appeared to agree that too much is moving to identify a “right” strategy, especially as there isn’t even agreement on how to weigh technical issues such as reliability against other social goals we “should” be pursuing. The underlying complexity raised by these superficially straightforward questions was well-highlighted.

Michael Picker, President of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) noted that despite all the issues the CPUC addresses, DE issues are of significant importance. CPUC needs to consider even the framework for its decision making processes going forward. A system designed to regulate railroads in the 1890’s may not provide the responsiveness and flexibility for regulating changes to utilities in a rapidly evolving technological, economic and social environment. The “adversarial” approach used in CPUC proceedings may not be the best approach—why is the current process more dependent on legal skills than on engineering skills? The desire is to move forward not too fast, not too slow in opening the market to competition while allowing utilities to remain viable business entities. These are issues that could keep one up at night.

Michael Picker (CPUC, left) and Shayle Kann (GTM, right) during their “Fireside Chat”

GTM California's Distributed Energy Future Conference

The second, albeit lesser, recurring theme I heard at the conference was that of CCA developments. Until this year, there have been only three of these organized in California: Marin (with subsequent geographic extensions) and Sonoma were cited above, and Lancaster Choice Energy was launched in 2015. San Francisco’s Clean Power SF, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Peninsula Clean Energy (San Mateo County) are in the process of launching this year.

As Mark Ferron, CAISO Board of Governors, cited, in 5 years 60% of the state’s eligible population could potentially be served by CCA’s if all programs now in discussion came to completion in that time. He provided a link in later discussion which I repeat here for those who want to follow up on the tally he reported: climateprotection.tumblr.com/tagged/Community-Choice

CCA’s make solar available to those in multi-family dwellings or who own a home not situated with a solar-favorable orientation or location. Expansion of solar power to these customers is required if solar-based power is to expand. Yet as Michael Picker observed, CCA “forced collectivization is a coup against the traditional utility model, challenging utilities and eroding the role of the PUC.” We don’t know yet where this takes existing suppliers and industry participants.

The challenges of the new, evolving energy infrastructure are actively being addressed by the states of California and New York. Conferences such as this provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on the issues and the difficulty this transition poses for firms competing in the market, regulators and the state legislatures who will eventually need to rewrite the rules for structuring state energy markets.

Utilities look to reverse net metering decision

By Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Union-Tribune

San Diego Gas and Electric and two other major California utilities Monday filed applications urging the California Public Utilities Commission to hold a rehearing to vacate or make “modifications” to its decision keeping retail rate net metering in place until 2019.

“We feel it’s in the best interest of our customers to re-look at this issue and consumer advocates actually agree, as they have taken similar action,” said SDG&E representative Amber Albrecht.

In January, in a tense 3-2 vote, the CPUC sided with solar backers over utilities that insist they are not trying to blunt the growth of solar power in California. Instead, utilities say the net metering system that pays rooftop solar customers for the excess electricity their systems send back to the grid is unfair to consumers who don’t have solar energy systems. Solar companies and their customers say the power their systems generate helps lower strain on the electrical grid and reduces the need to buy power during times of high demand.

The commission — in a ruling that ran more than 150 pages — agreed to keep tying credits to retail rates, rather than near wholesale rates that other states use. The CPUC said it will continue to re-evaluate the rules but the decision was widely viewed as a big win for solar, as other states such as Nevada have rolled back some solar incentives.

SDG&E filed its application for rehearing jointly with Southern California Edison, calling on the CPUC to make changes to its decision. Pacific Gas and Electric also filed paperwork Monday, the deadline for applications for a rehearing, looking to get the commission to vacate its ruling. The CPUC has 120 days to respond to the requests for a rehearing.

Read full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune