East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) has approved spending $500,000 for a program to support customers with medical need for reliable electricity. The EBCE board approved the expenditure at its Nov. 21 meeting.
The board’s action is intended to help people whose lives and health depend on electrically-powered devices. The money will be spent on identifying Alameda County customers with such medical needs to come up with a solution, so they are not left at risk in power blackouts.
The action came as a response to the Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) that can impact EBCE customers. PG&E turned off power several times in October, leaving almost 1 million accounts and 3 million people bereft of electricity.
More than 1,000 of those customers were on PG&E’s Medical Baseline program, which serves people with special energy needs because of a medical condition. EBCE has 10,000 Medical Baseline customers, which means they require special notification when power shut offs may occur, and provides them special privileges if they are at risk for being disconnected for lack of payment.
EBCE is a not-for-profit public agency energy program for Alameda County and eleven incorporated cities, serving more than 550,000 residential and commercial customers throughout the county. EBCE began service in June 2018 and is one of 19 community choice aggregation (CCA) programs operating in California. CCAs are expediting the climate action goals of their communities and those of California. EBCE is committed to providing clean power at competitive rates.
With electric reliability now precarious in the San Francisco Bay Area, community power suppliers are making a deal with customers that benefits both: We give you low-cost energy resilience, you let us tap into your battery storage.
Part of the goal of the innovative program is to help customers avoid public safety power shutoffs from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), said JP Ross, senior director of local development, electrification and innovation for East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), one of the power providers.
The utility shutoffs, designed to help avert wildfires, have led to power outages for millions of customers this fall.
So the program gives customers a way to keep power flowing during the shutoffs — or any type of power outage. Meanwhile, the community power providers gain a new way to meet their resource adequacy requirements.
The program also lowers costs for customers that have solar-plus-storage systems.
Energy resilience through islanding
Under the plan, 6,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties will receive storage or solar-plus-storage that can island from the grid — a key attribute of nanogrids and microgrids.
“All these systems must be able to island, which requires special equipment,” Ross said. “They would island at the house or business level.”
The power suppliers, EBCE, Peninsula Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Power and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, are looking for vendors to supply the systems. To that end, they have released a request for proposals (RFP) for the installation of 30 MW of battery storage for their customers. Bidders can also add solar to their proposals, which are due Dec. 23. The suppliers expect to approve contracts in April 2020.
Even though customers get their power from the community agencies, some are affected by shutoffs because PG&E provides transmission and distribution to the power suppliers.
When the utility turns off power to the area, the community agencies go dark.
The RFP asks for proposals to install battery systems on local homes and businesses that can be combined with new or existing solar systems. At least 50% of the systems are for residents and the rest for multifamily properties and commercial buildings in the San Francisco Bay area. The project also aims to support customers with life dependent medical equipment and businesses in disadvantaged communities.
The projects are expected to be up and running by next summer.
How customers save money
Under the program, battery and solar suppliers — most likely aggregators — will work out with the end customers the details of how much solar and storage they’ll receive.
The customers will acquire the storage and solar at reduced costs or lower financing costs by offering up a portion of their battery capacity to the community power agencies.
“We will pay the aggregator for the battery capacity and the aggregator will flow that payment as savings through to the customer,” he said. That may be in the form of lower financing costs.
New approach for power suppliers
The program aims to enable the community power providers to fulfill state “resource adequacy” requirements. This is energy generating capacity that community providers and utilities must acquire in order to provide safe and reliable operation of the grid.
In the past, the agencies and utilities have purchased power from distant power plants to fulfill this requirement. But under this program, resource adequacy will be met by new local solar and storage systems that also assure resiliency.
The aggregator or aggregators chosen through the RFP will operate the batteries and that operation will be invisible to the homeowners and businesses, said Ross.
The aggregators will discharge the batteries between 4 pm and 9 pm, when the agencies need the power.
A California Public Utilities (CPUC) program called proxy demand response allows for aggregation of distributed energy assets for sale to load-serving entities, Ross noted.
The energy resilience program is based in part on the Oakland Clean Energy Initiative. To provide power needed when a peaking plant was shutting down, the EBCE signed a 10-year agreement with SunRun for 500 kW of energy storage in the Oakland area based on new solar-plus-storage installations. Those resources were located on low-income housing.
PG&E’s power shutoffs have sparked a need for more programs like the Oakland project, said Ross.
“Residents and businesses are concerned about power shutoffs and want a solution. The bottom line is we are making resilience less expensive for customers,” he said.
The purpose of the Community Outreach Grant is to help residents enroll in programs that provide discounts on electric bills while also increasing EBCE awareness.
Oakland, CA (November 15, 2019) – East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) is Alameda County’s local community choice energy program and currently provides electricity services to 1.5 million people across the county. EBCE launched the Community Outreach Grant in August 2019 and invited service-oriented organizations to apply. The grant program is unique in that the primary focus of the pilot is to increase enrollment in the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) and/or the Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) programs within EBCE service territory. EBCE’s CEO, Nick Chaset, said “Providing lower costs and energy choice have been essential to the mission and purpose of our work. The Community Outreach Grant provides funds to support local organizations already deeply connected with our low-income communities.”
EBCE awarded $10,000 each to two organizations based on a competitive solicitation. The application process requested information such as the organization’s history working with residents in Alameda County, quantitative measures of outreach capacity, and proposed outreach methodology. The two organizations awarded are Spectrum Community Services, Inc based in Hayward and California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL) based in Oakland.
Spectrum Community Services, Inc. is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the health and safety of seniors and low-income residents by enhancing their quality of life. Spectrum is deeply connected with senior and low-income communities through programs such as the Fall Prevention Program and Meals on Wheels. Executive Director of Spectrum, Lara Calvert notes that “Spectrum is committed to bringing more resources to our low-income families and seniors. This partnership with EBCE will allow us to extend the breadth of benefits we offer.” To learn more about Spectrum visit their website here.
California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL) works closely with faith communities from all major religions to address climate change issues. CIPL will leverage their relationships with faith institutions to enroll eligible members in the CARE and/or FERA program. CIPL’s Northern California Director, Liore Milgrom-Gartner highlights that “California Interfaith Power and Light believes in community-based climate change solutions while uplifting all of our communities. We’re honored to engage our community on EBCE’s programs that will not only save people money, but help protect the climate as well.” To learn more about CIPL visit their website here.
EBCE is the local electricity provider created as a Joint Powers Authority by the 11 participating City Councils and the County of Alameda Board of Supervisors to provide low cost, cleaner power to our community. Launching to residential customers in November 2018, EBCE joined 19 other Community Choice Energy programs operating across California. For more information about East Bay Community Energy, please visit ebce.org.
As PG&E blackouts for wildfire prevention leave millions without power, community-choice aggregators seek behind-the-meter solutions.
Community-choice aggregators representing three San Francisco Bay Area counties have launched a 30-megawatt behind-the-meter battery solicitation aimed at protecting vulnerable customers and communities from the massive fire-prevention power outages of bankrupt utility Pacific Gas & Electric.
Tuesday’s requests for proposals from East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), Peninsula Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and municipal utility Silicon Valley Power are the latest step taken by state and local authorities to bolster solar-storage systems as a solution to the wildfire and power outage conundrum.
The goal is to equip up to 6,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties with batteries, combined with new or existing solar systems. Proposals should focus on serving “low-income residents, customers with life-dependent medical equipment, and residents and businesses located in disadvantaged communities.”
PG&E’s multiday blackouts last month were a life-threatening event for sick and elderly people reliant on medical equipment, air conditioning or operating elevators to survive. They also underscored the lack of resources for communities left without power to charge cellphones, keep food and medicines chilled, and otherwise support the basics of modern life.
Tuesday’s solicitation earmarks half of the 30 megawatts of storage for residences, with the rest for multifamily properties and commercial buildings. Partner vendors will be selected early next year, with the goal of getting projects underway in time for the 2020 fire season.
From backup power to resource adequacy
Beyond these terms, the CCAs and Silicon Valley Power aren’t prescribing just how proposals could seek to meet their broader goals of lowering energy bills, increasing grid reliability and serving the grid at large. Some of the funding could well go to microgrids like the one installed at the city of Fremont, California’s Fire Station #6, the site of Tuesday’s press conference for the solicitation.
Other initiatives have focused on increased incentives for single- and multifamily housing. One example of this is the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision this summer to set aside $100 million in incentives to cover nearly the entire cost of a solar-battery system for disadvantaged or medically vulnerable residents of high-fire-risk regions. The carve-out from the state’s Self-Generation Incentive Program is meant to allow solar installers like Sunrun, Tesla, SunPower and others to seek out customers who’d otherwise be unable to afford such a system.
Tuesday’s joint solicitation is aimed at adding another layer of sophistication to home and business solar-battery systems, by integrating them in a way that allows them to serve as grid resources. Specifically, the CCAs want to aggregate the 30 megawatts of capacity to meet their Resource Adequacy requirements: their share of the resources needed to assure the state grid can remain reliable even during emergencies or times of peak demand.
That’s how East Bay Community Energy, which serves about 550,000 customers in Alameda County, set up this summer’s contract with Sunrun to provide half a megawatt of capacity from aggregated solar-battery systems by 2022. Sunrun plans to use the future Resource Adequacy capacity revenue to reduce the upfront cost of its BrightBox battery systems for East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) customers, centered on the disadvantaged community of West Oakland.
Tuesday’s solicitation isn’t the first effort by participating CCAs to bolster clean backup power in their service territories. Peninsula Clean Energy last month approved up to $10 million over three years to develop backup generation programs for medically vulnerable customers, emergency response centers and other infrastructure like police and fire stations. It and EBCE have also partnered with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to determine top community shelter and emergency services sites for solar-plus-storage backup systems.
A growing role for CCAs as PG&E faces public takeover
The scope of Tuesday’s solicitation would dwarf these efforts. While Tuesday’s solicitation doesn’t provide any price or cost figures for the 30 megawatts it’s seeking, a back-of-envelope calculation, using the California Public Utilities Commission’s boosted incentive of $1 per watt for Self-Generation Incentive Program funding to cover the entire cost of a typical home solar-battery system, would imply a price tag of roughly $30 million.
The move also highlights the increasing role that CCAs are taking in California’s energy future. Across the state, 19 CCAs now buy power for more than 4 million customers, according to industry group CalCCA. Most of them are in PG&E territory, where nearly half of electric customer accounts are now served by a CCA, and more are set to join.
Some CalCCA members have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to consider transforming PG&E into a “wires-only” electricity distribution provider. Other public entities, such as the City of San Francisco, are seeking to buy PG&E’s grid infrastructure within their territories.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders have proposed more drastic efforts to intervene in PG&E’s corporate structure and governance to correct its track record of safety failures. The operational failures of last month’s public safety power shutoff only strengthened those calls, with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo leading a political effort to explore turning the utility into a publicly owned cooperative.
But a public takeover of PG&E doesn’t guarantee a more reliable future grid, as Dan Kalb, EBCE board chairman and Oakland councilmember, wrote in a Tuesday statement.
“We have a lot to do,” he said, “including additional policies and regulations to further reduce heat-trapping emissions; hardening of our electrical transmission and distribution system; improved dedication to effective vegetation management, more clean energy locally, and serious consideration of taking over elements of PG&E by creating new public power authorities.”
Facing the prospect of a decade of PG&E power shut-offs, Bay Area programs that buy energy for local communities are pushing for more solar-powered backup batteries to survive blackouts before next fire season hits.
East Bay Community Energy, which buys green energy for Alameda County, is joining with several similar programs — Peninsula Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Power and Silicon Valley Clean Energy — to ask solar companies for proposals to install battery systems in more buildings, with the programs buying the energy that’s produced.
Customers who get the systems will save money, officials said. Their systems will cost less due to a deal with the program to use the energy they produce if need be in order to comply with a law that requires utilities to guarantee they have the ability to handle high demand on the grid at all times.
The groups plan to announce the program with officials Tuesday at a fire station in Fremont powered by a small, freestanding solar grid. Installations would start next year, officials hope.
“The public can’t be expected to put up with (the PG&E outages) on an ongoing basis. That’s especially true of the most vulnerable members of community who depend on electricity for their life and well-being,” said Oakland Councilman Dan Kalb, who chairs East Bay Community Energy’s board. “If we can create a more resilient power grid with more backups, which will include battery storage … that could reduce the potential impact for a lot of people. We have to make sure these backup systems are available to everyone who needs it most.”
Across Northern California, residents, businesses and municipalities are scrambling for alternatives as PG&E proves more unreliable. Last month, San Francisco bid to purchase the utility’s infrastructure, which was promptly rejected. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo wants to create a customer co-op utility and help people’s lights to stay on through renewable energy microgrids — isolated pockets of electricity supply and demand that can stand alone from the rest of the grid. And residential solar companies reported a spike in interest and sales before and after PG&E outages.
Programs like East Bay Community Energy are known as community choice aggregation programs; residents band together to buy alternative energy. But they still depend on PG&E wires to move the electricity from where it is generated to homes and businesses. Backup batteries that store solar power offer homes and businesses the ability to keep the lights on even if PG&E turns off the power.
More than 30,000 East Bay Community Energy customers have solar systems, but not all have batteries to store the energy for nights and cloudy days. Many people have bought gas-powered generators in response to the outages, but they produce carbon emissions and can pose risks if they are not installed properly.
“One of the ways to sort of insulate yourself better from public safety power shut-offs is to have some local storage so that you can segregate your electrical grid a little bit so that it’s more of a microgrid,” said Anthony Kovscek, chairman of the energy resources engineering department at Stanford University. “But it will be expensive.”
Experts acknowledge solar systems aren’t yet affordable for everyone. “They are historically on wealthier individuals’ homes,” said JP Ross, senior director of programs for East Bay Community Energy.
The state offers subsidies and, under East Bay Community Energy’s current solar program, low-income customers can get reduced rates. Depending on what proposals the group receives from solar companies, the new battery storage program could have cost savings too, Ross said.
East Bay Community Energy has already worked with PG&E to replace a jet fuel-powered plant in Jack London Square with large-scale batteries. It’s also working with Sunrun, a San Francisco solar company, to add solar panels and batteries to more than 500 low-income housing units in Oakland over the next two years.
Pleasanton City Council unanimously decided to move forward to join East Bay Community Energy.
PLEASANTON, CA — Pleasanton residents and businesses are likely going to have another choice when it comes to energy. During Tuesday night’s Pleasanton City Council meeting, council members unanimously decided to move forward to join East Bay Community Energy, a not-for-profit community choice aggregation program currently serving Alameda County and several of its cities, including nearby Dublin and Livermore.
The council members are now scheduled to vote Oct. 1 on the adoption of an ordinance and resolution to join EBCE’s Joint Powers Authority.
Under the program, EBCE will purchase electricity for Pleasanton, but PG&E will deliver the power, maintain the grid and manage the billing. The EBCE service — which is optional for residents and business owners — will appear as a separate line item on monthly PG&E bills. (Learn more here.) The EBCE program would be available to Pleasanton ratepayers starting in 2021.
According to EBCE, it purchases power with higher renewable and lower greenhouse gas content than is offered by PG&E. Other than receiving cleaner electricity at competitive prices, all other aspects of electricity service remain the same, according to EBCE.
In 2002, Assembly Bill 117 established “community choice aggregation programs” that enable local jurisdictions to offer an alternative energy option to customers.
“Council’s decision to move forward on joining EBCE now will not only meet the city’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but will also meet the deadline for the city to receive service by 2021 to ensure the CCA can procure sufficient energy to meet demand for the coming year,” said Nelson Fialho, Pleasanton city manager.
The Community Innovation Grant is East Bay Community Energy’s first grant program funding projects that benefit local, Alameda County communities while inspiring innovation and collaboration
Oakland, CA (July 19, 2019) – East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) is Alameda County’s local community choice energy program and currently provides electricity services to 1.5 million customers across the county. EBCE launched a new grant initiative this year and invited community-based non-profit organizations to apply for its Community Innovation Grant. The grant program is one of the early action items in EBCE’s Local Development Business Plan, which is a comprehensive framework to deliver benefits within Alameda County.
Six organizations were awarded grants of $40,000 each for projects that will invest in Alameda County’s communities, especially to those disproportionately impacted by climate change. Projects were chosen based on the following criteria: creating local clean energy projects, increasing community health benefits, scaling throughout Alameda County’s communities, and/or increasing energy literacy. Congratulations to our six community-based organizations.
Community Impact LAB, Community Energy Conservation Initiative (CECI) – The 10-month initiative will empower and educate Alameda County families and businesses to tackle climate change through energy conservation and literacy such as an online educational campaign.
Ecology Action, Innovation in Electric Vehicle Charging for Affordable, Disadvantaged Communities, and Market Rate Multi-Unit Dwellings – Ecology Action will design a scalable multi-unit dwelling (MUD) EV charging program delivery model for low- and moderate-income residents within EBCE.
People Power Solar Cooperative, Second Community-Owned Solar Project – People Power Solar Cooperative will organize its second community-owned solar project to provide a critical model for community investment and ownership of renewable energy in California and other states.
RE-volv, Empowering East Bay Communities through Solar – Through their unique community-empowerment model, RE-volv seeks to bring solar installations to at least four East Bay non-profits that serve underserved communities over the next 12 months.
Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, Climate Careers: Launching Green Jobs and Delivering Community Energy Savings – Climate Careers employs and trains youth as Energy Specialists to conduct Green House Calls in hard-to-reach households, helping residents save energy and money.
West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, West Oakland Renewable Power -WORP is a community-owned, industrial scale, solar PV generation facility, generating profits from energy sales to support various energy resilience programs for income-qualified residents.
EBCE is the local electricity provider created as a Joint Powers Authority by the 11 participating City Councils and the County of Alameda Board of Supervisors to provide low cost, cleaner power to our community. Launching to residential customers in November 2018, EBCE joined 19 other Community Choice Energy programs operating across California.
For more information about East Bay Community Energy, please visit ebce.org.
A network of residential energy systems will help Oakland, California wean itself off fossil-fueled peakers.
East Bay Community Energy, which buys power for Alameda County in Northern California, approved a contract Wednesday night to pay Sunrun for 500 kilowatts of capacity from residential solar-plus-storage.
The 10-year contract, which goes into effect in 2022, marks a second contracted win for Sunrun’s theory of using aggregated residential energy assets for grid services. The company won its first virtual power plant contract in February to supply ISO New England with 20 megawatts by 2022.
San Francisco-based Sunrun is the leading installer of U.S. residential solar systems.
“This kind of deal is a critical catalyst for this transition to customers as the prosumer, investing in energy to serve their own needs and also to serve the grid,” said EBCE CEO Nick Chaset.
As a community-choice aggregator (CCA), EBCE buys power for county residents with a mission to make the fuel mix cleaner while maintaining affordable prices.
The organization has to meet state obligations for resource adequacy on behalf of its customers, and that’s where the clean energy goal gets tricky: The market’s answer for capacity tends to be gas-burning peaker plants. If EBCE wants to ensure grid reliability and commit to high levels of carbon-free power, it needs to bring something new to the table.
It did just that with the Oakland Clean Energy Initiative, a collaborative effort to replace a jet-fuel-burning peaker in Oakland’s Jack London Square. The group contracted with Vistra last month for a 20-megawatt battery, the largest standalone battery to be built for a CCA.
Whereas the 20-megawatt battery will literally replace the peaker turbines, the Sunrun deal will provide 2 megawatt-hours of energy storage (500 kilowatts with 4-hour duration) scattered throughout the service territory, but with an emphasis on West Oakland.
“The project is not as closely linked to this specific peaker; it’s more broadly adding it to our portfolio of resources that are going to help us avoid general peakers,” Chaset said. “We’re paying you to perform and that performance will help relieve us of the obligation to buy peaker plants.”
As a general rule, residential batteries cost more than utility-scale batteries due to economies of scale. In this case, however, EBCE is not buying any equipment outright; it is contracting for capacity with developers that draw other revenue streams from the assets.
Chaset declined to disclose the price of the decentralized contract, but said “there was no major premium” compared to the larger batteries.
“This was very competitive on a price perspective with the bigger front-of-the-meter batteries that we’re procuring,” Chaset said.
The contract stipulates that Sunrun will pay prevailing wages to install the equipment on low-income single-family and multifamily homes within Alameda County.
Audrey Lee, Sunrun’s vice president for energy services, noted that the community-oriented nature of CCAs makes a natural fit with Sunrun’s “people-powered” grid philosophy. Instead of filling the capacity need entirely with utility assets hooked up to the grid, EBCE elected to meet some of its obligation in a way that gives community members access to more clean power and resilience.
“We hope it’s something we can replicate across California,” Lee said. “The growth of the CCAs in California has been enormous.”
Across the state, 19 CCAs now buy power for more than 4 million customers, according to industry group CalCCA. The traditional investor-owned utilities maintain the poles and wires that deliver that power.
Now that the model contract has been figured out, Chaset said he could see behind-the-meter capacity scaling to multimegawatt levels, and that multiple CCAs could join forces for regional distributed energy programs.
The new capacity revenue will allow Sunrun to add batteries alongside solar, giving the residential buildings access to backup power for critical circuits.
The contract also raises the possibility that Sunrun could enlist some of its thousands of existing solar and storage customers in a similar crowdsourced capacity program. That would be technically possible, Lee said.
“Our BrightBox systems today in California are programmed to do time-of-use load-shifting as well as backup power,” she said. “If they were enrolled with a capacity contract, those batteries can be easily reprogrammed to discharge to provide that capacity.”
The new arrangement builds on Sunrun’s commitment to supply 100 megawatts of solar power to low-income housing, said Lee. In moving toward that goal, announced last fall, Sunrun draws on funds from California’s Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing program and works with building owners to deliver solar at no cost to tenants.
TULARE COUNTY – More renewable power will be flowing to community-based power providers across the state from new solar and wind farms heading to construction in the San Joaquin Valley. These are typically new customers for Valley solar and wind developers who in the past had to depend on power purchases from reluctant utility companies.
Just announced- the East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) board of directors has approved two power purchase agreements for a combined 157.5 megawatts from new wind and solar facilities, along with 30 megawatts of battery energy storage.
EBCE, a Community Choice energy Aggregation program serving most of Alameda County, approved the following contracts: a 20-year agreement to purchase 57.5 megawatts of wind from the Altamont Winds project in Alameda County and a 20-year agreement to purchase 100 megawatts of solar and 30 megawatts of energy storage from the Sonrisa Solar Park in Fresno County. In addition they have announced a preliminary deal to buy 56MW of solar energy from a proposed project in Tulare County called Luciana Solar.
Proposed new Central Valley utility-sale solar projects are more frequently selling their power to nearby Community Choice energy aggregators versus power sales to traditional utilities like SCE or PG&E. There are now 19 not-for-profit Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs operating in California and the market is growing as more communities are deciding to adopt this form of electricity distribution. Hanford for example, is considering becoming a CCA.
In this case, Alameda-based EBCE is a not-for-profit public agency that operates a Community Choice Energy program for Alameda County and eleven incorporated cities, serving more than 550,000 residential and commercial customers throughout the county.
Another example of the trend, just last year Japanese-owned Solar Frontier Americas was the winning bidder in two processes acquiring a not-yet-built 56 megawatt project in Tulare County called Luciana and the proposed 210 MW Mustang Two solar project in Kings County from Canadian Solar’s development business Recurrent Energy. The deal was announced in December.
Located on 1,400 acres in Kings County, California, the Mustang Two project is expected to be operational in 2020. The project will then be operated by Solar Frontier Americas’ growing independent power producer business. Once this project is operational, the energy generated by the solar power facility will be split between two long-term power purchase agreements: Peninsula Clean Energy (the community choice energy agency which serves San Mateo County) is contracted to receive 100 MWac, and the Modesto Irrigation District will acquire 50 MWac. The combined energy generation will power 37,500 homes with clean electricity.
These CCAs, and other non-profit community-based energy providers including the East Bay group EBCE are eager for renewable energy their customers want as California moves to 100% renewables by 2045.
Wind farm to replace 569 older turbines
The Alameda group also looks to phase out fossil fuel power plants and older renewable technology. The Summit Wind Project located in Altamont Pass near Livermore is located within EBCE’s territory and reflects the community choice provider’s commitment to invest in local, clean energy resources and deliver local benefits they say. The project will entail repowering (replacing) a former Altamont Pass wind farm which consisted of older less efficient wind turbines with ones that are state-of-the-art. San Diego-based Salk LLC will build the new wind farm and sell the energy to the East Bay customers. The 55-MW wind farm is just 35 miles outside Oakland.
Completion and operation of the Summit Wind Project is planned for late 2020. The repowering project will replace 569 one-hundred-kilowatt turbines with 23 modern turbines. Once completed, the repowered wind farm will generate more than 60 percent of its power for Alameda County during peak hours, including the afternoon and high-demand summer months, producing enough clean energy on average to power about 30,000 homes per year.
“More and more, communities want to aggressively address climate change and reducing the use of fossil fuels in our power mix is a big part of that. EBCE is adding new renewable energy generation capacity to the grid that will, in time, serve to phase out our reliance on fossil fuel while also stabilizing our energy costs,” said County Supervisor and EBCE Board Chair, Scott Haggerty.
Renewable energy will also replace fossil fuel now in the heart of Oakland. On June 5, the EBC board approved a contract with Vistra Energy to receive resource adequacy capacity from a 20 MW battery energy storage project that is currently planned to be built as a partial replacement for an aging, fossil fuel-fired power plant located in the heart of Oakland.
A boom in Valley-based projects
Spokesperson for the Alameda group Annie Henderson says demand for renewable power “is just exploding much faster than state mandates” require because of the proliferation of community-based power providers from LA to the Bay Area “It is happening much faster than before” she says, noting her Alameda group will be announcing more power purchases from other new San Joaquin Valley solar projects in July.
The Alameda board also gave a green light to a 56MW solar PPA with Solar Frontier Americas for Luciana Solar to be located in Tulare County. The project will be built in southern Tulare County located near Richgrove along Highway 65 says county planner Mike Washam, new to an already operational 20MW solar farm.
Next door in Fresno County the Sonrisa Solar Park project will produce 100MW of solar energy and 30MW of energy storage for a partnership of Spanish and Portuguese-based utilities who are busy doing renewables in the U.S.
The Sonrisa Solar Park project now owned by EDPR will be located near Tranquility in Fresno County. Construction on the Sonrisa Project will begin in December 2021 and be operational in 2022. It will be EDPR’s first large scale renewable project with storage.
EDPR is already one of the world’s largest wind energy producers and also wants to develop wind energy off the California coast. The company’s footprint in the state includes three phases of the Rising Tree Wind Farm in Kern County as well as two phases of the Lone Valley Solar Park in San Bernardino County. These projects produce enough clean electricity to annually power more than 101,000 average California homes.
The combination of solar with energy storage system was designed to increase efficiency and provide greater balance in energy supply, says the company.
– John Lindt is the publisher of Sierra2theSea.net, an online newspaper covering California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.
California’s Senate Bill (SB) 100 initiated a new phase in the state’s nation-leading climate fight, with new goals for 60% renewables by 2030 in the power sector and zero-emissions economy-wide by 2045.
San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) were previously the primary renewables-procuring LSEs, Large-scale Solar Association (LSA) Executive Director Shannon Eddy told Utility Dive. But the investor-owned utilities (IOUs) will not lead this new phase.
“San Diego does not want to own generation and their load is disappearing. With PG&E’s bankruptcy, it is not in a position to procure, and Edison wants to procure, but doesn’t need new power,” Eddy said. “That leaves the CCAs. They will procure because they need about four GWs of long-term renewable contracts by the end of 2023 to meet their RPS obligations.”
But CCAs face unique challenges. Their lack of established credit may prevent new procurement, some power sector stakeholders told Utility Dive. CCAs responded that they will use resource diversity, distributed energy resources (DER), and load management to lead California beyond its 2030 renewables goals to a new power sector paradigm.
Load will grow
Renewables growth faces more difficulties than during California’s phase one, but load will grow and the new RPS will require renewables to meet it, according to January 2019 California Energy Commission (CEC) data. New renewables have been “mainly solar” and “over 75% of currently permitted projects are solar,” CEC spokesperson Edward Ortiz emailed Utility Dive.
But new long-term (over ten-year) renewables contracts fell from 2,231 MW in 2015 to 999 MW in 2016 and to only 546 MW in 2017, according to the CPUC’s November 2018 RPS report. And the IOUs did not solicit new long-term contracts in 2018, the CPUC reported.
The many potential portfolio mixes still to be considered make estimates of the state’s need for new renewables by 2030 highly varied. CPUC modeling shows the state will need at least 9 GW to 12 GW of new utility-scale renewables, LSA’s Eddy said. SCE found the need would be between 15 GW and 20 GW, along with 10 GW of storage, SCE VP for Power Supply Colin Cushnie told Utility Dive.
Regarding non-IOU procurers of renewables, California’s large publicly-owned utilities, including Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), are expected to continue as significant renewables procurers. SMUD’s draft 2019 IRP calls for 1,000 MW of solar by 2040 and LADWP is formulating a zero-emissions by 2045 plan.
“The working goal is 1,000 MW of solar in the next 20 years,” SMUD Manager of Project Development and Renewable Generation Buck Cutting told Utility Dive. “If there is available affordable land with transmission access, we can add that much solar.”
But CCAs are also coming to the fore.
Fourteen of today’s 19 CCAs launched in 2017 and 2018, an October 2018 white paper from trade association CalCCA reported. Significant CCA procurement only began in 2017, and average RPS compliance was only at 49% for the year, the CPUC reported. But shortfalls are expected to decrease by 2021, when all CCAs are statutorily required to meet 65% of their obligations with long term contracts.
There were signs CCAs moved forward in 2018. In the CPUC’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) process, CCAs proposed “over 10,000 MW of new renewable and energy storage projects by 2030,” a CalCCA Q1 2019 update reported. These were not all long-term contracts for new renewables. But “developers view CCAs as reliable counterparties” and are “working with them,” CalCCA said.
Finally, forecasts are more difficult for the electricity service providers (ESPs) empowered by a 2018 law to serve up to 15% of the state’s commercial-industrial load. Much of their RPS procurement “is done with short-term contracts,” the CPUC reported. But many are subsidiaries of energy sector leaders like Calpine, Shell and EDF, and likely to obtain financing, a developer who has contracted with ESPs told Utility Dive.
New LSEs will buy
“I don’t see how we stop buying,” East Bay Community Energy (EBCE) Senior Director of Public Policy and Deputy General Counsel Melissa Brandt told Utility Dive. “IRP data shows 60% to 70% of new renewables is likely to be solar and CCAs will be the main buyers. If anything, we will over-procure solar for reliability and curtail.”
By 2020, the three IOUs could serve “less than half the retail load in California and potentially a much smaller share,” SCE’s Cushnie agreed.
To meet the 2030 renewable energy goals, California will need to essentially double its generation capacity, “which would be a Herculean task if it was being done in a systematic way,” Cushnie said. “It’s compounded by the confusion over who’s responsible for what.”
Some new LSEs “are being deliberate with solicitations and contracts, but there is serious concern that – collectively – they are not positioned to meet their obligations,” Cushnie said. “They lack credit ratings and other indicators of financial stability that could cause investors to look for opportunities in other Western states with high renewables mandates, less confusion and more market certainty.”
The IRP found “the super majority of new California renewables will be procured by CCAs,” Chief Operating Officer Matthew Langer of the Los Angeles region CCA Clean Power Alliance told Utility Dive.
SDG&E sees no other option. With 80% or more of its load forecast to move to new LSEs “in just a few years,” SDG&E intends to “exit procurement” and recommends that “emerging players lead the way,” utility spokesperson Helen Gao emailed Utility Dive.
CCAs “are working diligently toward meeting their obligations or going beyond them and we are eager to see them succeed,” LSA’s Eddy said. “That is uncertain as this new phase of solar growth begins, but there was uncertainty at the beginning of the first phase of growth.”
The credit rating question may be an obstacle, but “the job of developers is to contract and build,” Eddy added. “If they can finance contracts with off-takers, they will. Other Western states are making big strides in solar, but California is planning to bring on a lot of GW of utility-scale solar by 2030. This is the market.”
Off-takers and developers have solutions
“There is no problem on long-term contracts with” publicly-owned utilities, EDF Renewable Energy VP of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs Virinder Singh told Utility Dive. “And many ESPs have brand names and known corporate stability that are a basis for negotiating long-term contracts.”
For CCAs without credit ratings, “we’re learning as we go,” he said. EDF renewables contracts with CCAs in 2011, 2016 and 2018, totaling over 160 MW of solar capacity, show it is possible, “but investors’ appetites may be limited.”
Most major California renewables developers are likely “actively marketing to CCAs,” Singh said. “We are thinking about deal designs that will work for the CCA and for the developer, including ways to provide the right products and address the credit issue.”
“The credit issue will not be a problem long,” Recurrent Director of Development Mike Toomey told Utility Dive. “And our completed contracts show even now it’s more of a speed bump to development than a roadblock.”
In working with an off-taker without a credit rating, the contractual process begins with educating investors, Toomey said. If there is higher perceived risk, it can often be offset with collateral or a higher interest rate until the CCA counterparty is a known entity.
New and more complicated developer-off-taker contracts will be customized, solar-plus agreements that include storage or demand response, SEPA reported. “They will assign value for output at specific times and locations and for other services,” Jen Szaro, SEPA’s VP of Research and Education, told Utility Dive.
California’s “lofty targets are going to require a lot of development, attract a lot of investors, and create new liquid markets,” Toomey agreed. “There are lots of opportunities in a liquid market to find creative ways to serve customers, but it might get more complicated.”
Nothing is the same
The first phase of California’s renewables expansion “was about getting renewables into the system,” EDF’s Singh said. “The new paradigm requires organizing the resource mix around renewables and including energy storage, distributed solutions and EV charging.”
In this new paradigm, CCAs will incorporate distributed energy resources (DER) to create a more flexible load, EBCE’s Brandt said. Given enough latitude, CCAs can work through the IRP process and take advantage of new technologies and new contracts to manage reliability “in a very different way than it’s been managed in the past.”
For now, “adding low-cost solar megawatts to meet RPS requirements will work, but in the long term we have to think about the system,” Clean Power Alliance’s Langer added. “If all the LSEs just buy solar and consumers keep building rooftop solar, the system operator could be forced to use natural gas generation to protect grid reliability and that will prevent the decarbonization we all want.”
The first cycle of the CPUC IRP process “was rushed and incomplete,” he said. “Iterating around it will be important. Recognizing the value of a wider range of resources is a priority.”
Brandt agreed, and suggested the next IRP should bring local governments into the state planning process and link local DER with utility-scale renewables.
The state is paused before “its next challenges” and “its next leap forward,” LSA’s Eddy said. “Economic curtailment, credit worthiness of off-takers, available land and transmission and electrification of transportation and buildings are more complicated than the challenges we have had.”
Developers and off-takers are already collaborating on solutions to the credit-worthiness issues and the the LSEs have begun to collaborate in state planning processes, Eddy said. The new supply produced by those cooperative efforts will allow meeting greater electrification needs. And siting challenges can be addressed if stakeholders at the local, regional and state levels work together.
“The one thing that binds us all together is the climate crisis and the imperative to get as much renewable energy online as quickly as we can,” she said. “How we can keep working together to do that is what keeps me up at night.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified CCAs. They are Community Choice Aggregators. In addition, a previous version of this article had an incorrect title for Jen Szaro. She is SEPA’s VP of Research and Education.