California regulators require large electric investor-owned utilities to accelerate deployment of microgrids

According to the proposal voted on on June 11, the large investor-owned utilities must develop and implement standardized, pre-approved system designs for interconnection of resiliency projects that deliver energy services during grid outages

The California Public Utilities Commission on June 11 said that it has issued a decision requiring large electric investor-owned utilities to accelerate deployment of microgrids and resiliency projects to minimize the impacts of wildfire-caused power outages and public safety power shut-off (PSPS) events.

The commission said that the rulemaking “was fast-tracked after the mismanagement by utilities of the October 2019 PSPS events in the state and is intended to increase the deployment of new projects during this wildfire season.”

According to the proposal voted on on June 11, the large investor-owned utilities must:

  • 
Develop and implement standardized, pre-approved system designs for interconnection of resiliency projects that deliver energy services during grid outages
  • Develop and implement methods to increase simplicity and transparency of the processes by which the utilities inspect and approve a project
  • Prioritize interconnection of resiliency projects for key locations, facilities, and/or customers

The commission also said in its decision that large investor-owned utilities are required to modify their net energy metering tariffs to allow storage devices to charge from the grid during the pre-public safety power shut off window, as well as to modify their net-energy metering tariffs to remove storage sizing limits.

In addition, the decision adopts solutions that promote collaborative engagement between large investor-owned utilities and local and tribal governments. The commission added that large investor-owned utilities are required to conduct meetings to educate and inform local and tribal government agencies on vulnerable electric transmission and distribution infrastructure, as well as critical operations that service local jurisdictions.

Among other things, the commission said that its decision approves resiliency proposals set forth by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

In its statement, the commission said that PG&E will implement programs that will:

  • Upgrade substations that can be quickly and safely energized with local sources of power
  • Procure temporary, portable generators for use at substations and other key locations of public benefit for the 2020 wildfire season
  • Provide utility technical and financial support for community proposed microgrids to enhance resiliency of critical facilities and vulnerable customers

The commission also noted that SDG&E will implement software and hardware technology to enhance microgrid operation, as well as augment and interoperate with the company’s existing advanced distribution management system and microgrid projects proposed in other proceedings.

As noted in the order, the commission directed the utilities to create a template-based application process for these behind-the-meter project types: Rule 21 non-export storage (<10 kW); net energy metering (NEM) paired storage (AC and DC coupled; solar <30 kW and storage <10 kW); and NEM solar (<30 kW).

The commission said that it adopts size restrictions on the eligible projects based on the utilities’ reporting that those project types constitute the majority of project applications, in order to ensure the safety and reliability of the grid, as well as in the interest of timely implementation of the SLDs before the upcoming fire season.

The utilities are to develop templates that address 80% or more of potential interconnection projects applications in each project category, based on historical interconnection projects, and that are consistent across utilities. The commission added that the remaining 20% or less will continue to be evaluated through existing utility processes, noting, “The adoption of an 80/20 guideline approach will limit the complexity of single line diagram designs and shorten the time required to develop and implement them.”

The commission noted in its statement that it initiated Rulemaking 19-09-009 in response to Senate Bill 1339 to facilitate the commercialization and deployment of microgrids while prioritizing system, public, and worker safety, as well as avoiding shifting costs between ratepayers. The proceeding is organized into three tracks and the proposal voted on on June 11 is focused on track one issues, the commission said.

CPUC Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma, who is assigned to the proceeding, said in the statement, in part, “We will use upcoming Tracks for this proceeding to explore the viability of non-diesel alternatives for next year’s wildfire season, further develop standards and protocols to support and reduce barriers to microgrid deployment without shifting costs between ratepayers, and develop rates and tariffs that are just and reasonable to support commercialization of microgrids.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 2888 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.