The PUC’s big storage decision will boost renewable energy production

October 17th, 2013 | by K Kaufmann | Comments

My Twitter feed and email box are lighting up with big news that the California Public Utilities Commission has voted to approve an order requiring the state’s three big utilities to start procuring renewable energy storage technology, with the goal of having 1,325 megawatts of storage on the grid by 2020.

You can read the full text of the original proposed decision, as released Sept. 3, here.

Both Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric will be required to procure a total of 580 megawatts of storage, with 310 megawatts dedicated to transmission, 185 megawatts on distribution and 85 megawatts going to the consumer market, which presumably means distributed generation or rooftop.

San Diego Gas & Electric will be responsible for putting on 165 megawatts of storage, with an 80-55-30 split on the transmission, distribution and customer requirements.

The three utilities have until Jan. 1, 2014 to file individual applications on how they will run their first solicitations for energy storage facilities.

Those are the quick basics. Expect plenty of press and discussion on this decision. Its potential impacts are huge — in terms of providing a big push for more research and investment in storage technology in the state and in pushing California to go beyond its current 33 percent renewable energy target. If renewable power can be stored for use when the wind is not blowing and sun isn’t shining, then the potential for clean energy development will be limitless.

Wind Turbine Generators

The windmills in the San Gorgonio Pass (pictured here in a shot off the website) spin mainly at night so the argument goes, we need natural gas plants to back them up. But what if the power could be stored and dispatched as needed during the day? What would that mean for homeowners with rooftop solar installations whose panels pump power back into the grid during the day if they’re not home?

The main question will be the added costs and impacts on consumers electric bills, particularly as new storage technologies are developed and deployed. But, as has been seen in the solar market, when demand is created and technology becomes widely adopted and distributed, prices fall.

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