SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--
With California’s grid facing an era of rapid change as access to renewable energy grows, three new reports from the nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank Next 10 examine key issues involving the state’s power system. The reports take a deep dive into how the grid might be challenged or helped by the rise of electric vehicles; the increase in distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar panels; and the growth of community choice aggregation, which allows cities and counties to join together to purchase electricity on behalf of their community members.
“These innovations are all key elements in California’s efforts to transition to clean, renewable energy that is both reliable and affordable,” said F. Noel Perry, businessman and founder of Next 10. “As the state adds more variable renewable energy to the grid, these resources – electric vehicles, distributed energy resources and community choice aggregators – represent a challenge to the traditional energy management system, but also provide opportunities for us to manage a more efficient and cleaner grid. There are a lot of complex issues for Californians — especially policymakers — to consider as we work toward a clean energy future.”
Together with the state’s shift toward low-carbon generation of electricity, electrifying transportation is a key pathway for California’s clean energy strategy.
California currently has about 369,000 plug-in electric passenger vehicles (PEVs). In order to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of 5 million PEVs by 2030, sales need to grow significantly. Also on the horizon: electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, and the prospect of private vehicle ownership being lowered by fleets of electric, self-driving PEVs.
The California grid is well placed to handle rapid growth in PEVs but advance planning and smart policy can ease the transition for the state’s power system, according to Next 10’s report Electric Vehicles and the California Grid, by Anand R. Gopal and Julia Szinai of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Among the report’s key takeaways:
“If California wants to meet its zero-emission vehicle goals while keeping electricity affordable and reliable, it’s worth considering some policy levers that can help,” Anand Gopal, author to the brief, said. “In addition to encouraging further electrification of the transportation sector and supporting the development of associated charging infrastructure, policymakers can look at ensuring that autonomous vehicles and mobility-on-demand services don’t increase GHG emissions. Other potential strategies include expanding time-of-use rate programs and supporting smart charging to optimize benefits that electric vehicles can provide to the grid.”
Distributed Energy Resources
Distributed energy resources are small technologies — including rooftop solar, energy storage, microgrids, load control, energy efficiency, and communication and control technologies — that produce, store, manage, and reduce the use of energy. They are small enough to be “distributed” all around the grid, close to customers and away from centrally located power plants.
“There’s a lot of buzz around distributed energy resources (DERs), which have rapidly growing capabilities and falling costs,” said Bentham Paulos of PaulosAnalytics, who produced The Growth of Distributed Energy: Implications for California for Next 10. “While they can help make the grid more reliable, resilient, and equitable, DERs represent a potential shift from the status quo of central control and ownership. As many decisions are made by individual customers, regulators and utilities are ceding some control of the system, requiring new flexibility and a new set of incentives. If DERs are going to reach their full potential, their value must be recognized and properly rewarded.”
California has already adopted virtually every policy conceived to encourage DERs, the brief notes, and is a leader in deployment, as well. For example:
California is also a leader in energy efficiency programs, including building codes, appliance standards, and ratepayer-funded utility programs with investor-owned utilities investing more than $700 million annually in programs. Over the course of decades, these have reduced energy demand, saved customers money, reduced the need for investment and infrastructure, and cut pollution. But while California is a leader in energy efficiency, it is lagging behind in using flexible power demand to provide services to the grid, known as “demand response.”
“Distributed energy resources represent an economic opportunity for California, with tremendous growth potential,” said Perry. “California companies lead in energy efficiency, energy storage, energy software, and rooftop solar.
Community Choice Aggregation
Communities across California are forming Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) at a rapid rate since 2010, with over half of them starting within the last two years. County and city governments administer CCAs as local alternatives to investor-owned utilities (IOUs).
Next 10’s report The Growth ofCommunity Choice Aggregation: Impacts to California’s Grid, written by JR DeShazo, Julien Gattaciecca, and Kelly Trumbull of UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, finds that if current growth trends continue, CCAs may serve a majority of California’s power consumers within the next 10 years, transforming California’s retail electricity sector.
According to the report, the rise of CCAs has both direct and indirect positive effects on overall renewable energy consumed in California, helping contribute to the state meeting its 2030 RPS targets approximately ten years in advance.
Even with such an important impact on the penetration of renewable energies, CCAs’ effects on the grid have been negligible so far. This is in part because when a CCA starts, it handles the needs of existing electric customers, and often gets power from existing power plants.
In the long term, though, CCAs’ impact on the grid depends on their energy procurement strategies and their local investments.
“The public and local nature of CCAs positions them to implement local energy programs that will help to reduce or shift energy consumption, benefiting the grid as well as their customers,” DeShazo said. The report finds that some CCAs have been especially innovative in responding to customers’ preferences by offering programs that focus on efficiency, rooftop solar, electric vehicles, and demand response.
Among the report’s other findings:
Next 10’s briefs on the grid and distributed energy generation, community choice aggregation, and electric vehicles are the third, fourth and fifth entries in a five-brief series on the grid. The first two reports — on grid regionalization and a primer on California’s electricity system — were released earlier this month. All five briefs can be found at www.next10.org.
About Next 10
Next 10 ( next10.org ) is an independent, nonpartisan organization that educates, engages and empowers Californians to improve the state’s future. With a focus on the intersection of the economy, the environment, and quality of life, Next 10 employs research from leading experts on complex state issues and creates a portfolio of nonpartisan educational materials to foster a deeper understanding of the critical issues affecting our state.
Copyright Business Wire 2018