Powering Strong Communities

Calif. CCA group asks governor to take steps to improve grid reliability

The California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) has sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking him to take immediate action to improve the reliability of the state’s electric system.

California is dealing with record-breaking heat, as well as a record setting level of wildfires, which threaten the stability of the state’s power grid.

Earlier this month, the California grid operator called on customers to reduce power consumption during recent heat waves to avoid more drastic rolling outages. In August, the grid operator initiated rolling power outages in response to record heat.

The recent rolling blackouts, “reveal an urgent need to reform the existing resource adequacy rules administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the CAISO [California Independent System Operator], and focus the CPUC’s integrated resource planning process more rigorously on supply reliability,” Beth Vaughan, executive director of CalCCA, said in the letter.

CalCCA represents 20 Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) that provide energy to customers in more than 170 California cities and counties. Collectively, CCAs serve about 25% of CAISO’s load.

In the letter, the CalCCA also recommends the governor appoint an Independent Review Panel to consider the results of a root-cause investigation of the conditions that led CAISO to initiate rotating outages on Aug. 14 and 15.

While root causes identified may point to solutions needed to mitigate the risk of repeating similar events, even without certainty regarding root causes, California should begin to take steps to increase reliability through action in the regulatory, legislative, and federal arenas, Vaughan argued.

In the letter, the CalCCA recommended several near-term actions to improve the reliability of California’s grid. Specifically, CalCCA says the CPUC should continue to ensure adequate supplies will be in place for summer 2021 requirements and beyond through the procurement track of the IRP process and review its import restrictions in the context of the recent emergency events.

The CPUC should also use the IRP process to refine needs for the 2024-2026 timeframe. CalCCA supported the CPUC’s 3,300-megawatt (MW) procurement order in 2019 and recommends analysis to identify any incremental near-term procurements beyond the current 3,300 MW order.

CalCCA also recommends using the IRP process in the coming months to “better refine” technical needs, such as capacity, energy, and evening ramp resources, and to establish a fair process to allocate those resources to load serving entities for procurement action.

And the CalCCA recommended that the CPUC should develop a deeper understanding of import resource availability and institutional barriers to securing firm import resources and provide incentives and regulations for behind-the-meter infrastructure to act as supply-side energy and capacity resources.

On the legislative front, CalCCA recommends the state’s legislature should enact AB 3014, which would establish a Central Reliability Authority responsible for planning and coordinating the state’s resource adequacy with CAISO and, where necessary, procuring backstop supply.

CalCCA said it supports the expansion of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to standalone energy storage resources and the removal of charging restrictions currently limiting the flexibility of battery energy storage to support the state’s ramping and peak needs.

Community choice aggregators have already signed long-term power purchase agreements for an aggregate total of 5,000 MW of new solar, wind, geothermal and energy storage projects and have expanded the use of time-of-use pricing regimes that can help relieve stress on the grid, Vaughan noted, adding that CCAs “are prepared to do more and are committed to working with the Joint Agencies and the investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to support reliable energy service and ensure sufficient in-state renewable integration supply.”

The American Public Power Association has initiated a new category of membership for community choice aggregation programs.