California commission to look at long-term power supply picture

The California Energy Commission’s Lead Commissioner for the Integrated Energy Policy Report will conduct an Aug. 19 workshop to explore a range of perspectives for evaluating potential electricity system needs in 2030.

Commissioner Andrew McAllister is the Lead Commissioner. Other commissioners may attend and participate in this workshop, said the commission in an Aug. 6 workshop notice.

The Lead Commissioner will host stakeholders in a discussion of expected system development through the current ten-year planning horizon and uncertainties that influence the evolution of the electricity system in the five- to ten-year period that follows.

California has set a target for long-term economy-wide reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions of 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Proportional reductions for the electricity sector alone would require substantial decarbonization, reducing coal- and gas-fired generation from 150,000 GWh today to roughly one-third this value in 2050.

“This will require energy efficiency savings on an historically unprecedented scale, reductions in electricity use that are likely to be more than offset by the electrification of the transportation and industrial sectors,” the notice said. “Additionally, development and deployment of new zero- or low-carbon carbon technologies (e.g., fossil-fueled generation with carbon capture and sequestration, advanced biofuels) increased deployment of nuclear generation, marked expansion of existing renewable technologies (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass), or a combination of all three will be needed.”

Since new zero-carbon technologies and nuclear generation cannot be assumed to be in place by 2030, the pathway to additional GHG reductions over the next 15–20 years, beyond those realized by California’s divestiture of the coal-fired generation, largely entails continued “conventional” renewables development. Projected renewable development through 2020 includes more than 9,000 MW of wholesale solar capacity.

Post-2020 renewable resource development will depend upon load growth, increases in the Renewable Portfolio Standard, and advances in renewable technologies that lead to “grid parity” with non-renewable generation, the commission noted.

Sufficient dispatchable generation, demand response, and storage resources must be available to the operators to manage increased ramping. Increasing need for these resources comes at the same time that more than 12,500 MW of dispatchable gas-fired generation is retiring due to the State Water Resources Control Board’s policy on once-through cooling. The California Independent System Operator is developing analyses on the complimentary resources needed to integrate the renewable portfolio projected for 2022.

The increased penetration of intermittent generation resources, as well as distributed generation that is neither visible to nor controlled by the transmission operator, create the need for new, stochastic methods of evaluating risk. The system is evolving from one in which dispatchable energy flows from large generation sources to consumers, who face fixed prices and thus have stable demand, to a system in which energy flows are bi-directional, incorporating thousands of generation sources, many of which are intermittent, serving demand that can increasingly respond to varying real-time prices, the commission said.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.