Installing new renewable energy requires upgraded grid

california power grid photo
Photo by Oran Viriyincy

California utilities are confident they will reach the state-mandated goal of 50% in-state renewable energy by 2030. Their real challenge is upgrading the grid to handle power coming both ways, not just one way. Another issue is Community Choice Aggregation, where local entities, like cities, essentially form a co-op and buy their energy on the open market or from alternate sources, cutting down what the utility can sell to them.

SCE’s request includes spending on equipment that would enhance its ability to monitor its grid in real time. Irwin said that need comes from the changes that rising levels of DERs [Distributed Energy Resources] bring to the grid. For instance, most substations on its system are designed to channel one-way energy flows, but DERs result in two-way flows. SCE also says DERs have rendered most of its 4 kV circuits obsolete and in need of replacement.

Current regulation allows investor-owned utilities to impose an exit fee on CCAs to provide reimbursement for the costs of serving customers still on their system. One of the fronts in the battle over renewable integration is over the nature of those fees. It is an area of growing concern to the state’s utilities.

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