Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

September 4, 2020 by  
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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts Bryn Baker Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:00 On Aug. 14 and 15, the California electric grid operator made the incredibly rare decision to proactively shut off parts of the electricity grid, resulting in limited rolling blackouts affecting businesses and homes throughout the state. Forced outages are a tool of last resort, employed in circumstances of incredible stress to the grid and done to protect against more widespread outages. Record heat for several days across parts of the state strained the power grid so much that it started rationing electricity, for the first time in almost 20 years. Notably, temperatures reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley — the hottest recorded temperature on the planet in more than a century.  While the immediate cause is still being investigated, we do know that California’s grid was experiencing multiple, coincident stressors — high demand, generators not performing when called upon and energy imports not showing up. Rather than thinking of these events as a one-off stroke of bad luck, consider that this soon might be the new normal. And not just in California. Climate change is driving more extreme weather events, including heat waves, everywhere, all while the grid faces increasing demand from electrification of cars, buses, businesses and homes. How should businesses and other large customers be thinking about the increasing strains from climate change with an evolving energy resource mix? Some have suggested clean energy is the scapegoat for the recent blackouts. However, not only was clean energy not the source of the problem , it’s the solution. Clean and renewable energy is core to charting a path forward.  Time to ditch fossil fuels-centric planning In the last 30 years, about one-third of coastal Southern California homes added air conditioners. Higher temperatures put more stress on traditional fossil-fired electric generators, reducing plant efficiency and output, and even caused them to temporarily shut down. In fact, the heat wave last month shuttered a 500 megawatt natural gas unit and a 750 MW gas unit was unexpectedly out of service Aug. 14. Outages of dispatchable fossil generation paired with reduced output from renewables, such as the 1,000 MW reduction in available wind power Aug. 15, resulted in an electric grid unable to meet customer demand. The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. California is actively shifting from a fossil-generation-dependent grid to a system that seeks to eliminate carbon emissions by 2045 — an essential step to combat climate change. Corporate customers, cities and governments are lining up behind ambitious clean energy and climate goals. Technological innovation and rapidly declining costs in renewables, storage and other clean energy resources are enabling California’s evolution to a 21st-century reliable , clean energy grid. The state is a leader in solar power, meeting much of the demand during the sunny hours of the day. However, the grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs.  Despite the finger-pointing and calls to move back toward natural gas, including from business groups , the recent experience in California shows that the energy transition shouldn’t be abandoned in the name of reliability Rather smart policy, planning and market designs are critical so that utilities and customers can improve reliability through accelerated deployment of these advanced clean resources as fossil generators retire.  Markets and regional cooperation: Bigger is better California’s electric system is operated by an independent nonprofit organization — the California Independent System Operator ( CAISO ) — that uses competition among power producers to identify the lowest-cost generators that can be used to reliably meet demand. While recent events have been compared to events we saw 20 years ago in California, flaws and fraud responsible then in California’s market design have since been corrected. This time around, the experience suggests that fully expanding wholesale electricity markets throughout the West will be a critical tool to reliably and cost-effectively meet demand in the face of climate change and the energy transition. California may be tempted to go faster alone, but it could get there more reliably and affordably with other Western states.  California’s grid imports electricity from out of state generators, and California’s utilities plan in advance for energy imports that are complemented by in-state generators to meet demand on the hottest days. CAISO does not control the number of imports, which were affected by the recent heat wave that extended beyond California. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Efforts are underway to expand the CAISO market through the Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), which allows coordinated real-time operation amongst a number of utilities and already has brought $1 billion in customer benefits, although this is a fraction of the benefits of a full competitive wholesale market. The type of grid event that occurred in August would be best solved by a western regional transmission organization that optimizes electricity generation and demand throughout the West, rationally manages shared operating reserves and plans/promotes interconnected transmission infrastructure. This type of system will be critical to lowering costs to all customers and keeping the lights on, while meeting the clean energy commitments by customers and states. Even CAISO and the California Public Utilities Commission agree that market improvements may well be needed. California’s approach to ensuring enough generation on the system to meet demand on the hottest days is fractured, complex and undergoing revision. As we chart a path forward, we need to embrace creative solutions and use the tools that we know can work. Businesses require reliable, affordable electricity. A growing number of businesses also know that transitioning the grid to clean energy can save money while continuing to provide expected reliability. Embracing innovation and new technology is in California’s DNA; it also could get by with a little help from its friends. By stitching together the West’s electricity system, reliability and a clean energy transition can work in tandem, most affordably for all customers. REBA is organizing related sessions on clean energy markets during VERGE 20. View more information here .  Pull Quote The grid of the future should prioritize flexibility and nimbleness, and greater deployment of resources such as batteries and larger demand response programs. A wider, better coordinated western electricity system could have more nimbly responded to large generators tripping offline and would have cost consumers less by reducing spikes in power costs and the need for backup generators. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Utilities California Electricity Grid Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Clean energy and markets are the solution (not scapegoat) for California’s blackouts

10 questions on EVs for the CEO of Portland General Electric

February 18, 2020 by  
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How electric vehicles can be a net benefit to the grid.

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10 questions on EVs for the CEO of Portland General Electric

6 ways companies can be a ‘force for good’ in their supply chains

February 18, 2020 by  
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It’s a collective responsibility.

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6 ways companies can be a ‘force for good’ in their supply chains

Can we protect nature by giving it legal rights?

February 18, 2020 by  
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Around the world, communities are using “Rights of Nature” laws to defend waterways, species and more from human threats.

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Can we protect nature by giving it legal rights?

New York City is using its fleets to fight air pollution

February 18, 2020 by  
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In a “race to the top,” more cities are gaining unprecedented insights toward cleaning up air quality.

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New York City is using its fleets to fight air pollution

Los Angeles city-owned buildings to go 100% carbon free

February 18, 2020 by  
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It’s also the first California city to demand lower carbon in construction materials.

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Los Angeles city-owned buildings to go 100% carbon free

This off-grid caravan offers escape into the magical Hoh Rainforest

July 31, 2019 by  
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Near one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. lies a magical glamping getaway that lets you reconnect with nature in cozy and sustainable comfort. Meet the Hoh Rainforest Caravan Cabins, a cluster of remote vacation rentals in the Pacific Northwest that operate entirely off the grid without compromising on modern luxuries. Located in Kalaloch, Washington between the Olympic Coast at the Hoh Rainforest, the Hoh Rainforest Caravan Cabins are one of many nature-focused vacation rentals offered by Glamping Hub , an online third-party booking platform for unique outdoor accommodations. Thanks to a recent partnership with Red Awning, the world’s largest collection of vacation properties, the glamping company now lists over 30,000 accommodations on its website in over 120 countries. The rentals range from caravan cabins to safari tents, tree houses, domes, tipis and more. As with Glamping Hub’s other listings, the Hoh Rainforest Caravan Cabins were selected by the company for their “hotel-quality comfort” and ability to offer guests a “unique experience.” Although all basic amenities are included—including hot water, electricity, a fridge, and a stocked kitchenette—the rentals minimize their environmental footprint with a renewable energy supply and self-contained, compostable toilets. Guests can also enjoy access to communal areas on the property, such as a campfire site. Related: Round, minimalist cabins with sliding glass walls take glamping up a notch “The unique location and privacy of the wooded forest allow for a truly magical experience on the Olympic Peninsula where lodging is very limited,” says Glamping Hub’s listing description. “Glampers can look forward to a starlit night by the campfire and a re-energizing full night sleep on a cozy queen size mattress. Friends and kids are welcome with both three-person and four-person accommodations available.” The property includes three units with a 10 guest capacity. Bookings start at $284.30 per night. + Glamping Hub Images via Glamping Hub

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This off-grid caravan offers escape into the magical Hoh Rainforest

Show me the money: The business opportunity for grid-interactive buildings

July 19, 2018 by  
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Green building just got greener.

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Show me the money: The business opportunity for grid-interactive buildings

Why Sysco chose a new recipe for its first off-site clean energy deal

July 19, 2018 by  
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Its contract with NRG Energy reconsiders the ingredients for a power purchase agreement.

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Why Sysco chose a new recipe for its first off-site clean energy deal

Can mini-grids solve sustainable energy access?

April 30, 2018 by  
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Community energy and mini-grids are promising models for reducing global energy poverty, but the nascent sector is still far from proven.

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Can mini-grids solve sustainable energy access?

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