The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is looking to energy storage as a key resource to avoid a replay of last August’s power outages as it looks ahead to what executives at the grid operator expect to be yet another long, hot summer in 2021.
CAISO estimates that 2,000 MW of storage will come online by this summer and is looking to leverage day-ahead market results to manage storage resources throughout 24-hour timeframes, said Mark Rothleder, chief operating officer. The goal is to “ensure that storage is charged to meet local supply constraints or system evening demand needs during the peak hours,” he said.
Rothleder was one of five CAISO executives, including new president and CEO Elliot Mainzer, who appeared en masse for what was intended as a trust-building exercise during a recent webinar hosted by the Clean Coalition. With Mainzer taking the lead, the message from the group was aimed at acknowledging the problems behind the Aug. 14-15 rolling outages that left thousands of Californians without power, while keeping a focus on changes being made to ensure the lights stay on.
August was a pivotal moment for California, said Mainzer, who stepped into the top job at CAISO in September, after seven years as administrator and CEO at the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) in Oregon. At the same time, CAISO’s Department of Market Monitoring (DMM) had found “no evidence of market manipulation of strategic generator outages” during the August blackouts, he said.
Mainzer said that going forward, “resource adequacy is job number one. Planning, procurement and operational changes are going to be necessary to enable a reliable transition to a decarbonized power system.”
FERC Order 2222
Details of the plans for summer 2021 were offered in updates provided by Rothleder and others.
CAISO would raise its planning reserve margin — the amount of power available to the system above its peak demand — from 15% to 20%, Rothleder said. That margin will be stretched to include not only the late afternoon peak, but the hours immediately following it — the early evening time period when power from solar tapers off but power demand remains high.
Integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) could be accelerated as CAISO works to comply with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Order 2222, said Anna McKenna, assistant general counsel. While California has led the country in efforts to integrate aggregated DERs into wholesale power markets, McKenna said the FERC order, which requires a level playing field for DERs, would push the state further by lowering the threshold for aggregated DERs from 500 kW to 100 kW.
Integration of transmission and distribution planning is also moving ahead, said Neil Millar, vice president of transmission planning and infrastructure development. “Solutions to address reliability needs have not just defaulted to a conventional transmission wire solution, but (are) either looking at distributed energy resources or combinations of wires and non-wires solutions,” he said.
Millar pointed to projects in Santa Clara and Oakland, both of which will use storage and other DERs to provide sufficient power to meet local needs for high demand and flexibility during future summer heat waves.
CAISO’s Energy Imbalance Market also provided grid support during the heat waves, when imported power from the regional system exceeded exports, according to the DMM. Stacey Crowley, vice president of external and customer affairs, said the regional power market is set to double its membership, from 10 to 20 utilities or other load-serving entities, by 2022, representing 82% of load for the Western Interconnection.
Out of the frying pan
According to a preliminary report released in October, California’s August power outages were the result of the combined impacts of an unprecedented heat wave, lagging resource adequacy as the state transitions to a clean grid, and problems with its day-ahead power market. A final report looking at the root causes of the outages is expected by the end of the year. But the preliminary report — issued by CAISO, the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission — raised concerns from a range of stakeholders.
For example, Ted Ko, vice president of policy and regulatory affairs at commercial storage developer Stem, has argued that regulatory restrictions on behind-the-meter storage meant that his company had to limit the emergency support services it could provide to the grid.
In an interview with pv magazine shortly after the outages, Ko said Stem had about 100 MW of power across its entire commercial storage fleet but was only able to use about half to ease stress on the grid. When questioned on the situation during the webinar, Rothleder had no easy answers, but said CAISO would “look forward to the opportunity to figure out how to harvest that capacity.”
Before leaving BPA, Mainzer’s colleagues there joked that he was heading out of the frying pan into the fire. At the time, he recalled, he had tried to downplay the analogy, but the wildfires and heat storms of August and September served as an abrupt reality check.
To his credit, during the webinar Mainzer did not dismiss or react defensively to criticism leveled at his agency, and seemed sincere in his commitment to listen and learn from CAISO’s broad range of stakeholders. He might not always agree with them, he said, but called for “fact-based and intellectually honest analysis” of all issues.
“We need to look across the entire regulatory, commercial and operational drive train to ensure that resources can participate on a fair and rational basis,” he said. That would hold true whether they are embedded within the distribution system or actively participating in the wholesale energy market.
*Article updated 12/14. Due to a transcription error, Elliott Mainzer was incorrectly quoted as saying that the August rolling blackouts were a “mistake.” Instead, he said they were a pivotal moment for California.
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PG&E is the utility in Northern California and when Solar Powered Customers sign up for NEM metering, they are put on time of day pricing. From 3:00PM to 9:00PM they must buy back any energy at a substantialy higher price so behind the meter storage is used to offset the higher price after a full charge on a sunny day. That stored energy is controled by the user, not the utility unless they sign up to give it to them after they give you an up-front cash credit of about $1,000.00 on their $7,000.00 power Wall(s) each or other storage battery system. Because most people want their own back up powe,r for nightime use in a power failure, or to charge their EV, they are reluctant to sign on to the PG&E “Power Grab” that PG&E can excersise any time of the day. With electric rates of 30 cents per Kilo Watt Hour, home owners with solar feel their electrical storage is their own since they also pay a $10.00 per month service fee on top of everything else to connect their solar to the grid. PG&E also zeros you our every 365 days and pays you only 2 Cents per Kilo Watt Hour for any generated and unused energy. Most home owners would rather burn up the excess energy than give it back to PG&E for 2 Cents let alone take it from their storage batteries, they paid a lot of money for, that will need to be replaced every 10 years. Untill the utilities pay for replacement batteries in a battery replacable back up storage systems, do not expect many home owners to use their own batteries to help the system. Remember PG&E chaeges 30 cents per Kilo Watt Hour plus a $10.00 monthly connection fee while El Paso Power charges 8 cents per kilo Watt Hour with a $7.00 monthly connection fee.
Utilities should also plan for the huge storage options available in the near future. EV versions of car/truck rentals, city utility vehicles, school buses (off season), etc, could offer additional GW/hrs of storage—and a 2nd income source for fleet owners.
This would give versatility to the grid and a 2nd use for grid tied EVs. Vehicle software could adjust the amount of battery drain allowed (going TO the grid) per vehicle. Thus, the owner(s) could maximize or minimize the amount of power/storage provided—depending on the vehicles planned future use. FCVs (fuel cell vehicles) and homeowners with Power Wall batteries could also be contributors to this modular/distributed storage. Members of these ‘Storage Collectives’ could be rewarded with free off-peak charging. A win-win for everyone and an excellent resource for natural disasters, blackouts, etc.
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