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Examining the Flaws of California’s Resource Adequacy Plan

11/12/20

  03:03:00 am, by Sophia   , 423 words  
Categories: Energy Storage

Examining the Flaws of California’s Resource Adequacy Plan

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and California Energy Commission (CEC) have issued a Preliminary Root Cause Analysis Report following the summer wildfires. Throughout this report, the collective determined that California is unprepared for the current climate and highlights the need for greater funding and revision into Resource Adequacy planning. 

The wildfires in August led to power outages all over the state. A huge impact was experienced in the natural gas sector resulting in 1,400MW to 2,000MW of forced outages. In addition, unprecedented spikes in energy demand occurred on August 14th and 15th–the same time as the initial outages. This increase in energy consumption was not only unexpected but was unaccounted for in the planning process due to the lack of certainty surrounding COVID-19. 

According to CAISO president and CEO Eliot Mainzer, “This preliminary root cause analysis is an important step in helping us learn from the events on the 14th and 15th of August.” The main focus is shifted towards detecting weaknesses in resource prediction and how to adjust to new and ever-changing energy patterns. Resource Adequacy is determined by electricity demand at peak hours of consumption. Assuming there is enough electricity to withstand peak demand, there should be plenty to suffice the grid at other times. Right? 

Demand versus net demand graph

Unfortunately, it is not that simple! Instead of one single peak demand period, we now experience “multiple critical periods during the day,” according to the report. This is due to a rapid growth of solar integration within the grid, resulting in a net peak demand. As more renewables make their way into the grid, such as solar and wind, peak demand is ‘offset’ by these resources. Therefore, net peak demand is renewable energy production subtracted from demand.

Net peak demand is difficult to determine. “Over time, critical grid needs may manifest in other hours, seasons or conditions as the energy resource portfolio continues to evolve…”–which is why implementing backup storage is a necessary step to account for uncertainties in consumption. With more storage, California can increase grid capacity and reform peak demand rates. CPUC has been working with load-serving entities to enhance grid reliability through solar-plus-storage, hybrid storage, and 300MW of wind and solar. The report also pushes for completion of these projects by a targeted date. 

This impactful Root Cause Analysis is exposing the flaws in the energy sector and hitting them head on. With greater realization of the issues at hand, comes greater responsibility to take action and demand change. California is leaning into energy storage as it becomes the most sustainable and efficient solution to combat the heat of summer. 

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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