Strengthening the grid with Community Microgrids

Earlier this month, the Clean Coalition won a competitive solicitation to provide consulting services to the Public Service Enterprise Group of Long Island (PSEGLI) in support of the Long Island Community Microgrid Project and Long Range Plan Battery Storage Project.

Led by the Clean Coalitionunnamed, these projects will deliver a cost-effective energy storage solution as the centerpiece to scale local renewable energy while enhancing power quality, grid reliability, and resilience across a vulnerable grid area in the East End of the South Fork.

An energy storage system – rated approximately 5 megawatt (MW) / 25 megawatt-hour (MWh) – will support higher penetrations of solar PV by smoothing variability during weather events and by mitigating peaks and steep ramps. This solution will also function with existing battery technologies enabling PSEGLI to operationalize the full capabilities of all battery systems in the target grid area in a manner that will guide subsequent renewables integration and grid management optimization.

New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision moves ahead

In response to energy challenges facing New York, the state launched an initiative known as Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) is leading REV with the goal of overhauling the state’s power system and regulatory landscape to promote greater deployment of distributed energy resources (DER), like local renewables, energy storage, and demand response.

This fall, the Clean Coalition submitted comments on a PSC proposal to develop the REV market in New York. The comments focused on how to best guide the distribution grid planning process in New York, which will be performed through the creation of Distributed System Implementation Plans (DSIPs). New York must proactively prepare for increased deployment of DER to streamline their smooth integration into the grid.

In our comments, the Clean Coalition leveraged our experience leading the implementation of California’s Distribution Resources Plans. The Distribution Resources Plans are similar to the DSIPs that REV will employ, and lessons learned in California are directly relevant to New York. Most importantly, the Clean Coalition stressed the need to begin modeling the distribution grid to determine the optimal locations for deploying DER that will provide the highest value to ratepayers.

unnamedOn February 26, 2015, the PSC  on Track 1 of the proceeding, which is the first significant effort made to outline the REV initiative. The order called for the establishment of a Distribution System Platform (DSP) provider that is charged with enabling a market for DER. Initially, the order calls for the utilities to play the role of the DSP, in addition to keeping their more traditional role as a “wires” company. However, utilities will only be allowed to own DER in very limited circumstances, such as when creating demonstration projects.

PSC’s Track 1 Order noted the Clean Coalition’s contribution to the proceeding several times. Among other highlights, the order calls out our organization’s role in pushing utilities to quickly implement Community Microgrid demonstrations. To prove the efficacy of our distribution grid planning process, the Clean Coalition recommended that utilities promptly design and implement pilot projects that model one substation area, identify optimal locations for DER, and deploy the resources accordingly. In the Order, the PSC requires utilities to file initial demonstration projects by July 1, and further comments on community microgrids were solicited by May 1.

In the coming months, we will continue our involvement in the New York REV process—sharing our expertise on Community Microgrids and distribution grid planning with the PSC and others. Utilities will be required to file initial DSIPs by December 15, 2015. Further, Track 2 of the proceeding, which is to commence with a PSC straw proposal on June 1, will address ratemaking reforms to ensure equitable distribution of costs and benefits among customers, as well align utilities’ financial interests with the objectives of the entire initiative.

In order to further strengthen our impact, the Clean Coalition recently joined the Clean Energy Organizations Collaborative, which serves as a forum for aligned stakeholders in REV and other proceedings and includes national and state-based environmental groups, clean energy companies, renewable energy industry trade associations, energy efficiency providers, academic centers, and groups focused on consumer issues. Through our engagement, the Clean Coalition aims to guide New York towards a cleaner, more affordable, and more resilient power system.

Evolving net energy metering in California

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is currently engaged in a rulemaking that will develop a successor to the existing net energy metering (NEM) tariff for eligible customer-generators. The existing NEM tariff is an important program that has spurred the growth of renewable distributed generation (DG). It allows customer-generators who install small solar, wind, and biogas generation facilities to receive a financial credit for power generated onsite and fed back to the grid. California law requires the Commission to adopt the successor tariff or standard contract by December 31, 2015.

unnamedThe Clean Coalition is heavily engaged in the proceeding for multiple reasons. Generally, we seek to ensure that the program continues to promote the growth of renewable DG. Our organization advocates that NEM encourage the development of projects greater than 1 megawatt (MW) in size, as well as those deployed by non-residential customers. Further, we promote a hybrid approach where a customer-generator avoids buying energy at the retail rate by generating and using energy onsite. The customer-generator is also paid a feed-in tariff (FIT) rate for all energy exported to the grid. Finally, we want to ensure that the proceeding is aligned with the significant developments occurring in the CPUC’s Distribution Resources Planning (DRP) proceeding, which was initiated by AB 327.

The CPUC is currently developing a methodology known as the “Public Tool” that will test options for a successor to the existing NEM tariffs. Parties will be able to use the tool to explore the costs and benefits of the successor tariff under different conditions. The Clean Coalition has filed multiple sets of comments to guide the development of the Public Tool—generally focused on incorporating locational value into the tool and aligning NEM 2.0 with AB 327’s requirement for utilities to develop Distribution Resources Plans.

Most recently, on February 23, the Administrative Law Judge overseeing the proceeding issued a ruling seeking comment on policy issues of the successor standard contract or tariff. The policy issues concern both the statutory requirements for the successor tariff/standard contract and additional elements that are part of the overall administration of the program. The Clean Coalition submitted comments responding to a number of questions the ruling raised, including issues concerning interconnection, promoting uptake of the program in disadvantaged communities, and sustainable growth of renewable DG.

The Clean Coalition will continue to be active in the proceeding—urging the Commission to adopt policies that will promote increased adoption of customer-sited renewable DG. We intend to file reply comments on the policy issues of the program on March 30, and will continue to guide the development of the Public Tool as it progresses to its final form in the second quarter of 2015. The successor contract/tariff has the opportunity to create a robust market for the sustained growth of clean energy in California, and the Clean Coalition will be at the forefront of these policy developments.