Los Angeles still has a feed-in tariff. And it’s growing.

It’s odd to be writing about an active feed-in tariff (FiT) in 2019. The policy which accelerated Germany into a 7 GW+ market annually and kick-started the global solar market had its heyday nearly a decade ago, with feed-in tariffs being introduced across Europe and Asia. This led to spectacular market growth but also dramatic crashes when the ambition of the market created exceeded these policies’ political support.

What is even more strange is to be writing about a FiT in the United States. Despite the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies act of 1978 (PURPA) serving as a model for Germany’s FiT, the U.S. market has instead been driven by the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), net metering and renewable energy mandates. The few feed-in tariffs in the United States have typically been small, regional affairs.

Among these, Los Angeles has had the largest FiT program, which was started under Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) in 2013 and which earlier this week was approved by the board of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for expansion from 150 MW to 450 MW.

Like other feed-in tariffs, LA’s FiT pays a fixed price under long-term contracts to owners of PV systems, one which is typically set at a price to incentivize building such systems. For Los Angeles these prices are generous; under the latest pricing adjustment the program will pay between 13.5 and 14.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for projects in the Los Angeles basin.

These changes now go do the City Council for final approval, and this expansion appears to be building on the momentum of a revamp of the program in 2017. However despite this progress, earlier this week LADWP reported that the program had only put 66 MW of solar in service.

 

Mid-sized DG

Unlike net metering, which is typically focused on residential systems, FiTs often have their greatest impact on the market for systems larger than those on residential rooftops but smaller than the large solar farms in deserts, fields and forests.

This sector, often described as the commercial and industrial market, has struggled in recent years in the United States. Wood Mackenzie reported recently that this sector had the lowest volume of installations in Q2 2019 since the third quarter of 2016, with only 426 MWdc installed, including community solar.

Los Angeles’ FiT has supported projects from 30 kW to 3 MW in capacity, but under the changes approved this week, projects up to 10 MW will be eligible. This means that if developers want to build solar on large warehouses or industrial buildings, they won’t be limited by how big they can go.

And while the price for these projects under LA’s FiT is much higher than that of larger-scale solar or wholesale market prices, these mid-sized installations also offer unique benefits. Many of these projects are located in strategic locations to meet electricity demand locally, thus reducing the need for transmission and distribution infrastructure. This means that while the price is high, so are the potential benefits and savings for utility customers.

LADWP referenced the potential savings from deferred transmission investments in its news release, and this may explain why the program is limited to projects in the Los Angeles basin, with only a small volume set aside for communities in the Owens Valley.

 

Solar + storage future

It’s no accident that the feed-in tariff is being revamped at this time, as it follows on the launch of the City of Los Angeles’ 2019 Sustainable pLAn, which seeks to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045.

Even with imports and exports from rest of California, it is going to take more than solar to get to the higher levels envisioned in this plan. LADWP says that in 2020 it plans to introduce an expansion of the program to support local solar + storage projects. These can help meet the city’s evening peak demand, and LADWP has mentioned that these projects can also provide voltage control support for the grid.

However, there is still a long way to go. Despite Mayor Garcetti’s controversial order to to set a schedule for decommissioning local gas plants, LADWP has a lower portion of rooftop solar per customer when compared with the state’s three big investor-owned utilities, and it’s going to take a lot of power – both during the day and at night – to meet the city’s needs with clean energy.

 

Los Angeles still has a feed-in tariff. And it’s growing, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, September 27, 2019.

California could face power shortages if these gas plants shut down, officials say

It’s been nearly a decade since California ordered coastal power plants to stop using seawater for cooling, a process that kills fish and other marine life.

But now state officials may extend the life of several facilities that still suck billions of gallons from the ocean each day.

Staff at the California Public Utilities Commission recommended this month that four natural gas plants in Southern California, which are now required to shut down in 2020, be allowed to keep operating up to three additional years. Without the gas plants, PUC staff said, the state may face power shortfalls as soon as summer 2021 — specifically on hot days when energy demand remains high after the sun goes down and solar farms stop generating electricity.

Energy regulators aren’t panicked, since there’s still time to make up for the expected shortfall.

And critics say shortages are unlikely and regulators are being overly conservative.

Still, the PUC’s proposal highlights increasingly urgent questions about how much natural gas California should continue to allow on its electric grid, and for how long. The state now gets one-third of its electricity from renewable sources, and state law requires 100% climate-friendly energy by 2045.

Burning natural gas contributes to the climate crisis. But it’s also California’s largest power source.

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CPA Still Violating Troublesome Rate Pledge | Temporarily Lowers Most Rates

The board of the Clean Power Alliance, the new community choice aggregator now serving about a million former Southern California Edison customers in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, on Sept. 5 approved resolutions lowering rates for most of its residential and commercial customers. The adjustments came only three months after CPA approved significant rate increases for those customers and a small group of 2,000 others who did not see relief this month.

The resolutions came as a welcome piece of business for the board which, under a marketing commitment to keep its rates tied to those of Edison, has in less than a year been asked to approve six rate adjustments, most of them increases. On the downside, at least two more adjustments are due by April and that doesn’t include the 32 percent general rate increase Edison announced this month that CPA will also have to eventually pass through.

Under its rate comparison policy, CPA guarantees rates for its 36 percent renewable “lean” energy product will be 1 to 2 percent less than the comparable Edison rate, while its mid-range 50 percent renewable “clean” product will be on par with SCE’s and its 100 percent renewable “green” product, no more than 9 percent above Edison’s comparable service. But to maintain its commitment those ranges, CPA has to adjust its rates anytime Edison does, and of late that’s been a lot.

The situation has raised the specter of the viability of the rate comparison guarantee, a matter the CPA board has been reluctant to deal with.

CPA Executive Director Ted Bardacke described the adjustments as a “rate roller coaster. I feel the rushes from being on that rates roller coaster and I think many of you do too,” he told board members June 6 before imploring them to vote for one more.

Also at that meeting, Chief Operating Office Mathew Langer said the resulting “rate fatigue” is frustrating to all involved. “Most customers have no idea these (adjustments) are happening,” he said, but “our long term vision is to not be changing rates every single month.”

With last week’s adjustment, rates are now back to roughly where they were in January, CPA officials said.

But the board did not give its customers as much relief as it could have. That’s because the most recent, 3.3 percent decrease Edison gave its customers turned out to be less than the 4 percent “exit fee” rate that Edison charges CPA customers for the sunk cost of the latter’s departure from Edison’s generation service. That meant CPA didn’t have to lower its rates as much to maintain its rate comparison ranges. By reducing rates only enough to keep up with the existing comparison levels, CPA will be able to bank an extra $4.7 million through the end of the year.

“We’ve had a run of not good luck,” Bardacke told the board Sept. 5. “This is a better position to be in–to be able to say we are lowering rates for everybody and it’s a question of how much, and we can also earn more revenue at the same time. It’s nice to get lucky for once and we need to take opportunities when we have good luck.”

But in fact, rates were not lowered for “everybody.” Staff elected to recommend a small subset of customers whose rates went up much more than others in June not get any relief. Some 1,800 of CPA’s largest energy users—who began taking service in May–are still slated to begin paying much larger winter rates starting next month while another small group of 200 customers with “outdoor lighting” accounts (sidewalks, streets, golf courses, parking lots etc.) will see even larger increases.

CPA would not supply average percentages for the amount of these customers’ rates increased, but at least some were known to be in the high 40 percent range.

The rates for these customers were increased because CPA determined that under its rate comparison pledge, not doing so would force its residential customers to subsidize large customers, a feature of Edison’s rate structure that CPA does not wish to emulate.

Delivering on the comparison guarantee “is important to CPA’s core value proposition,” CPA has said. But the indexing to SCE rates “has necessitated multiple rate changes throughout the course of 2019 to maintain these bill comparisons, exposed CPA to unanticipated cost shifts, and led to a situation where certain customers do not cover the cost to serve them,” staff frankly acknowledged in material prepared for CPA’s June 28 board retreat.

Importantly, the large increases affected not only large industrial customers, but also municipal customers, many of whom are represented on CPA’s board. The huge lighting rate increase, which for CPA members like Ventura and Oxnard amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollar per month, came with little notice and only days after some cities had finalized their budgets. That upset some members.

At least five of CPA’s eight municipal members in Ventura County—the cities of Ventura, Camarillo, Moorpark, Oxnard and Thousand Oaks–acted within weeks to opt out some or all of their CPA accounts, meaning they will have to stay with SCE for at least the next year. Ventura kept accounts not affected by the increase with CPA, but took a separate vote to shift remaining accounts from CPA’s 100 percent renewable product to the 36 percent “lean” renewable offering.

“I really didn’t want to have to opt out,” said Moorpark Mayor Janice Parvin.

“I don’t want anyone to think this is CPA’s mistake, or our mistake,” added Moorpark Councilwoman Roseann Mikos. “This is Edison’s fault.”

She was referring to a recent proceeding in which state regulators approved SCE’s application for a rate adjustment to make up for an $825 million “under collection” that was unusual both for its size and timing. SCE said it followed the rules, but the regulators did not agree and are now considering what kind of penalty to impose on impose on Edison

Moreover, Mayor Parvin added, Edison was required to share data that CPA relied on, but the data it shared turned out to be “very, very inaccurate.”

Both Parvin and Mikos complained they couldn’t be more specific about Edison’s actions because the information was provided by CPA in a closed session. Parvin said of all the boards she’s served on, CPA is “very frustrating” because when “we go into closed session there is always a big surprise. Not a little surprise, but a big, big, big surprise.”

The subset customer increases also had impact on industrial customer opt-outs but CPA would not release any information about how much load it lost or how many large customers opted out or reduced their level of renewable service. Nor are the large customers anxious to talk about it.

Perhaps even more important, the increases for the subset customers “violate the rate promises we made” CPA board chair and South Pasadena city councilwoman Diana Mahmud acknowledged. “It’s really unfortunate and we so regret being in this position, but it is the result of a confluence of factors that hopefully we will not see next year.”

Meantime the future of the rate comparison pledge remains unresolved. Earlier this summer, Mahmud told the South Pasadenan News that at their June retreat, board members discussed “whether CPA’s rates should always be indexed to SCE’s.” But she indicated the matter was left unresolved. “While members recognized that indexing to SCE’s rates was an implicit acceptance of any policy objectives embedded in that rate structure, the consensus was that any changes to CPA’s rate structure should be made with caution.” She said the question could be the subject of a “deeper dive” the board may take later.

After its Aug. 20 executive meeting, Mahmud said the board would consider taking “a more relaxed” approach to the indexing, where changes would be made only if Edison rate adjustments require adjustments to stay in the comparison pledge ranges. But no consideration has been given as yet to changing the ranges themselves. “I don’t see us deviating from that, as we don’t want to deviate from what we told our customers.”

 

CPA Still Violating Troublesome Rate Pledge | Temporarily Lowers Most Rates, By Ben Tansey, South Pasadena News, September 20, 2019.

City Hall to encourage replacing gas appliances with electric alternatives

City Hall will encourage residents and businesses to replace natural gas appliances with electric heating and cooking equipment as it pursues its goal of reducing carbon emissions to 20% of their 1990 levels by 2030.

The City Council discussed Tuesday how to incentivize consumers to forgo appliances powered by natural gas in favor of electric heating and cooling systems, stoves and dryers.

Natural gas is the second-largest source of Santa Monica’s emissions after gasoline since the city switched from Southern California Edison to the Clean Power Alliance in January. About 92% of residents and businesses now pay slightly higher rates for 100% renewable electricity and about 5% opted to stay with SCE.

Natural gas is more than 90% methane, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Extracting, producing, transporting and storing natural gas results in methane leaks at a rate of up to 3%, said sustainability analyst Drew Lowell.

While renewable natural gas is one alternative, its scarcity and high cost relative to renewable electricity makes it unlikely to ever meet a significant share of the demand for natural gas, Lowell said. It also still consists largely of methane and still leaks into the atmosphere. But replacing heating and cooling systems, gas stoves and clothes dryers is a lot trickier than changing utilities.

Eliminating natural gas in Santa Monica’s buildings will also only reduce carbon emissions by 2%, while renewable electricity cut emissions by 19%. Lowell said a new building with electric instead of gas equipment is $5,000 to $10,000 cheaper to construct and twice as efficient. The city is developing building codes that incentivize developers to construct electric buildings, he said.

Replacing an existing building’s gas appliances improves indoor air quality and eliminates hazards like carbon monoxide and explosions, he said.

However, most consumers are unfamiliar with electric equipment and may not want to replace their appliances until they are unusable, Lowell said. Older buildings may also have limited electrical capacity.

Councilmembers said the city would need to develop an outreach program to educate property owners about how to replace natural gas appliances and possibly offer financial incentives.

“We need to guide people into this,” said Councilmember Sue Himmelrich.

Mayor Gleam Davis said financial incentives or rebates should go toward people who most need them.

“When we gave rebates for people to switch out their lawns for drought-tolerant plants, people who took advantage of that were people in single-family homes who could afford to do it anyway,” Davis said. “We need to figure out if there is a way to focus rebates on people with the least wherewithal to make those changes.”

Councilmember Greg Morena said it would be challenging for restaurants to switch to electric induction stoves because the vast majority of chefs cook with gas. Induction stoves are also much more expensive than gas stoves, he said.

“I want to caution us against going down a path that we don’t necessarily have a solution for,” Morena said. “Costs increasing in a restaurant industry where margins are single digit … we don’t have a lot of room for it.”

 

City Hall to encourage replacing gas appliances with electric alternatives, by Madeleine Pauker, Santa Monica Daily Press, September 16, 2019.

California regulators identify multi-gigawatt energy shortfall

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued a decision within which regulators have identified “the potential for electricity system resource adequacy shortages beginning in 2021,” which is a way of using a lot of technical words to say that they’re facing a shortfall of generation on the grid.

So, when one decides there isn’t enough energy generation on the grid, what is done? In the case of CPUC a proposed decision is sent out, calling for the procurement of 2.5 GW of new energy resources within the transmission access area of Southern California Edison (SCE). And so, just like that, an open market nearly equivalent to the entire sum of solar that has been installed in Massachusetts to date has opened in California.

Now, not to kill the fun just as it’s starting, but there’s no guarantee that the sources procured will end up being solar facilities. The proposal calls for ‘all-source’ procurement, opening the door for natural gas-fired plants, energy storage, demand response and any other potential non-fossil generation facilities.

Regardless of source, 60% of that 2.5 GW figure is required to come on-line by August 1, 2021, 80% by August 1, 2022, and 100% by August 1, 2023.

Further broken down, the responsibility of procurement is not placed entirely upon the shoulders of SCE, however the majority is.

2.1 of the 2.5 GW will be procured by SCE, with local community choice aggregators picking up the tab for the last 400 MW. These smaller-procurement initiatives will be led by Clean Power Alliance of Southern California’s 357 MW share, a share which far outweighs the rest of the smaller requirements.

The need for procurement has been identified due to a medley of projected energy shakeups in the regions future. First come the closures, of which their are two kinds anticipated: nuclear power plants and once-through cooling (OTC) plants across the coast. For anyone wondering, OTC generates energy via the process of diverting water from bodies of water to cool steam after it has passed through a turbine to create power. The process has been found to entraps and kill billions of aquatic organisms annually, mainly fish larvae and shellfish, as well as remove water from habitats used by aquatic organisms and fauna.

However, the CPUC is operating under the idea that the procurement objectives may not be met and, to prepare for such an outcome, has advised that the State Water Resources Control Board extend of the once-thru-cooling (OTC) compliance deadlines for units currently slated to retire by December 31, 2020, for capacity of at least 2.5 GW and up to 3.75 GW, for up to three years beyond their current 2020 deadlines.

Outside of plant closures come projections of  projections tightening capacities for both natural gas systems and energy imported from other states.

Even with all the intricacies of the proposal, this is a massive opportunity for solar development in a state that isn’t exactly short on massive opportunities for solar development. It’s not every day that an energy need equivalent to the capacity of the state with the 8th most installed solar in the nation comes along. Even more rare is the need arising in a state which has shown a historic propensity towards solar as a generation source.

 

California regulators identify multi-gigawatt energy shortfall, by Tim Sylvia, PV Magazine, September 16, 2019.

L.A.‘s Record-Low Solar Project Hits Snag in Union Resistance

Los Angeles made waves this summer by finalizing a 400-megawatt solar project with a record-breaking low price. But the project, developed by 8minute Solar Energy, still needs final approval.

That approval failed to materialize in a vote Tuesday, after the municipal utility union expressed concerns about the project, the L.A. Times reported. The L.A. Department of Water and Power Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of the Eland solar project, but with one member abstaining and one absent, it failed to clear the majority needed to approve.

The Eland project will get another shot; it is now slated for another hearing on September 10. But the uber-low pricing — $19.97 per megawatt-hour for solar power under a 25-year power-purchase agreement — is predicated on beginning construction this year, before the 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit steps down. That means it will be imperative to sort out the controversy quickly so that construction can mobilize.

“While we were disappointed the project did not receive approval yesterday, we remain confident the issues raised will be resolved quickly,” 8minute Director of Marketing Jeff McKay wrote in an email Wednesday. “We feel strongly that this project is a win-win for everyone involved.”

The objections to the approval appear to have more to do with the city’s broader transition to cleaner electricity than the Eland project itself.

The leader of the utility union International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 has criticized Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Green New Deal plan, which will shut down three coastal gas plants. IBEW business manager Brian D’Arcy alleges the decision will cut jobs, raise the prices on electricity and threaten blackouts, and even went so far as to call the mayor’s plan “a childlike proposal,” as reported in the L.A. Times.

City officials insist nobody will lose their job due to the plant closures, and power will stay affordable and reliable.

IBEW Local 18 did not respond to an emailed request for comment. The union told the Times that “concerns needed to be raised” about the solar project, but did not describe the nature of the issues in detail.

The Eland project is separate from the effort to close the gas plants, although it is indicative of a new approach to grid planning. 8minute will pair the solar arrays with large batteries totaling up to 300 megawatts of capacity, to make the clean generation available on demand. By shifting solar power into the evening, the plant would reduce the need to rely on gas peakers or hydropower to meet peak demand.

Since the commission vote, 8minute has been working with the IBEW to clarify that all construction jobs will employ California workers under project labor agreements, McKay said. Concern over use of out-of-state labor was one item raised at the hearing.

If that resolves the controversy, the project could get the nod on September 10. If further procedural setbacks arise, even for a project at a groundbreaking low price point, the precedent could complicate L.A.’s quest to power itself with clean energy.

 

L.A.‘s Record-Low Solar Project Hits Snag in Union Resistance, by Julian Spector, Greentech Media, August 29, 2019.

NFI, Penske to deploy electric trucks in Southern California

NFI’s test case in drayage is a good candidate for electrification, according to Suzanne Greene, the manager of the Sustainable Supply Chains program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “Drayage is a good option because they know where their chargers are, they know what their route is,” Greene said in an interview with Supply Chain Dive.

Some drayage operations have even looked into the use of overhead catenary wires to power trucks, she said. The kind of equipment being run by carriers and logistics providers is becoming increasingly important for shippers who are making commitments to reduce their carbon footprint throughout their supply chain.

But it can be difficult for shippers to demand carriers use electric fleets. Greene worked with her colleagues at MIT to see if they could negotiate with big logistics providers bringing goods onto campus to use “electric anything,” she said. “We couldn’t make that happen.”

Greene said they’re still working on it and offering the status as a preferred carrier to whatever company can make it happen. Some companies were eager to meet the request but not able to say yes.

“When we were doing that, I definitely felt like we were pushing the envelope,” she said.

A shipper with more heft in the industry, like Walmart, might have more luck with this kind of demand. But even then, it comes down money. “That is the big question, right?” Greene said. “Who pays?”

U.S.-based shippers interested in picking their carriers based on fuel efficiency can turn to the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay tool to see average fleet emissions. Of course, this average isn’t going to change much with just a handful of electric vehicles, so a direct conversation with the carrier can be helpful, Greene said.

“When people start asking these questions and asking for electrified trucking then the carriers will move,” Greene said. “They want to serve us and make money, but we have to be asking these questions.”

These are not the first carriers to start the process of electrifying their California fleets. DHL announced the addition of 63 electric delivery vehicles earlier this year, and the U.S. Postal Service said it was piloting electric cargo vans for routes in Fresno, California.

A lot of this change is currently taking place in California, where regulations likely play a role. The California Air Resources Board has set rules for truck manufacturers requiring a certain percentage of their sales be electric trucks by specific years, according to Trucks. The CARB recently provided one-on-one assistance to truck drivers and fleet owners looking to understand the latest air quality rules and how to comply.

 

NFI, Penske to deploy electric trucks in Southern California, by Matt Leonard, Supply Chain Dive, August 28, 2019.

New statewide solar program could save Ventura County’s low-income residents on utilities

Residents of affordable housing units in Ventura County could see savings on their utility bills soon through a new state program that incentivizes solar power on multifamily affordable housing.

The Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing program provides up to $100 million a year in financial incentives for installation of solar energy systems on multifamily affordable housing in California. It requires that savings from solar power be passed on to residents, and aims to install 300 megawatts of generating capacity by 2030. According to the Solar Energies Industry Association, a megawatt of solar power can power 190 single-family homes.

In just the first day accepting applications, the program received enough project proposals to reach nearly 25% of its 10-year goal.

The program, which is funded by proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions program, received a flood of more than 240 applications representing 74 megawatts of solar power capacity in its first day. According to Jae Berg, senior manager for the program, there has been high demand for incentives for solar on affordable housing from property managers and solar contractors since a similar program closed a few years ago.

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An LA without gas stations?

Oil derricks and refineries would disappear from the region.

Gas stations would become irrelevant.

Streetscapes would be dominated by electric vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians.

That’s the vision laid out in a sustainability plan that will be considered Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

If carried out, the list of 159 action items included in the plan could dramatically transform LA’s landscape in the coming decades. County officials call the scheme to phase out fossil fuels the “nation’s most ambitious” regional proposal.

“We recognize the climate crisis and the need to act,” says Gary Gero, the county’s chief sustainability officer. “This is going to be a lot of hard work.”

Like the city of LA’s sustainability initiative, referred to by local officials as a “Green New Deal,” the county’s plan calls for complete carbon neutrality by 2050—meaning that carbon emissions would be reduced to zero or completely offset on a countywide level.

By many estimates, that may be too slow.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming could reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2030, with potentially devastating consequences. But the proposals from the city and county put Los Angeles in a position to honor the Paris Accord, which the U.S. abandoned in 2017.

Many elements of the plan could come together sooner. Gero says a proposal to power all of the county’s unincorporated areas using renewable energy could be realized even sooner than the 2025 goal included in the document.

Eliminating the county’s carbon footprint, even over a 30-year period, will require major shifts in LA’s planning process. Near-term solutions recommended in the plan include elimination of parking requirements for new housing and installation of bus-only lanes throughout the region.

Both strategies could be a tough sell for drivers and those wary of residential density. The reduction—or elimination—of parking minimums was a sticking point in debate over Senate Bill 50, a transit-oriented development proposal that remains stalled in the state legislature.

Meanwhile, multiple Metro plans for new dedicated bus lanes along major corridors like Colorado Boulevard have recently come under fire from some drivers and local officials.

Gero says the county’s strategy for cutting carbon emissions relies on convincing more people to walk, bike, or take public transit when traveling through the region. By 2045, the sustainability plan calls for a 50 percent increase in these types of trips—and a reduction in the number of miles residents drive each day to less than half of current levels.

“We’re going to have to have an open and honest dialogue about what the region needs,” Gero says. “Some people are going to be resistant, but this kind of change is never easy.”

Another likely challenge is the county’s proposal to “sunset” petroleum operations, eventually ending oil drilling and refining in a region that once ranked among the world’s most prolific oil production sites.

California’s oil boom is over, but the petroleum industry remains a major driver of the state’s economy, and Gero says a key part of phasing out fossil fuels will be replacing oil industry jobs and creating opportunities for green energy providers.

One segment of the plan calls for job training and creation of a “just transition” task force to ensure workers aren’t left behind in the pursuit of a greener economy.

As in the city’s sustainability initiative, the plan includes no guarantees that the county will meet its goals. One major obstacle is that the Board of Supervisors has limited jurisdiction over the 88 individual cities found in LA County. That means plenty of coordination between city, county, and state agencies will be required to make any of this happen.

Gero says county department heads will be required to provide frequent updates on progress, with the sustainability goals serving as barometers of success. Ultimately, though, it will be up to residents to see these plans through.

“Ultimately it’s the stakeholders who will hold us responsible,” he says.

 

An LA without gas stations?, By Elijah Chiland, Curbed, August 5, 2019.

Another California City Drops Gas Peaker in Favor of Clean Portfolio

The Southern California city of Glendale officially dropped a $500 million gas peaker project that it nearly approved last spring, and instead picked up the mantle of clean energy leadership.

The city council voted in April 2018 to pause development on the 262-megawatt repowering of the Grayson Power Plant and examine clean energy alternatives. Now, the municipal utility has completed an examination of 34 clean energy proposals and selected a diverse portfolio it says will meet reliability needs and save ratepayers $125 million compared to the old portfolio.

In other words, Glendale Water & Power (GWP) went through an energy transition in a little over a year.

“The future envisioned herein represents a complete transformation of the way GWP provides reliable, affordable and clean energy resources to the citizens of Glendale,” the utility wrote in a new integrated resource plan approved last week.

When the earlier planning process started back in 2014, batteries were not on the menu of cost-effective options, so a recognized capacity need — in this case, the retirement of a plant that dates back to the 1940s — essentially guaranteed a gas plant solution.

“At that point in time, thinking about reliability, the storage market was still very much in its infancy and very expensive still,” GWP General Manager Steve Zurn said in an interview.

Since then, large-scale batteries have become competitive, but so have networks of small-scale energy devices located in homes and businesses.

The final portfolio, proposed in Glendale Water & Power’s new integrated resource plan, would repower the Grayson Power Plant with a 75-megawatt/300-megawatt-hour Tesla battery installation and up to 93 megawatts of fast-ramping Wärtsilä engines.

Customer-focused resources will add another 50 megawatts, including 12.8 megawatts from home solar and batteries installed by Sunrun, 10.5 megawatts of demand response by Franklin Energy and 20.4 megawatts of energy efficiency and demand response from Lime Energy Services. That demand reduction constitutes about 14 percent of the utility’s roughly 350-megawatt peak load.

The new capacity was needed as backup in case the local grid lost its first- and second-largest power sources at the same time — not an outlandish possibility, given the fire risk in the dry hills surrounding the city. That role meant the expensive gas peaker would have had little to do most of the time.

Instead, the batteries, solar PV and efficiency investments will provide other benefits regularly, lowering peaks and reducing customer bills, in addition to serving local capacity during extreme events.

“It’s an astounding victory,” said Earthjustice attorney Angela Johnson Meszaros, who testified against the original gas-plant proposal on behalf of the Sierra Club. “It really does highlight what it looks like when the community turns out and demands better. And good on the Glendale City Council for letting better happen.”

Once the city council called for clean alternatives, GWP put its original plan on hold and got a request for clean proposals out and back in three months. Then the methodical vetting process began, which happened to coincide with the utility’s new IRP deadline.

“It was like, ‘OK, let’s do this; these are good points,'” Zurn recalled of the decision to set aside the old plan. “Nobody made a mistake; it was just that technologies have advanced and it’s worth stepping back and taking another look.”

Wärtsilä’s shift toward green energy

The final proposal does include some fossil fuel infrastructure, but the choice of Wärtsilä engines is notable.

The company, a Finnish manufacturer of engines for ships and power production, has adopted a long-term decarbonization strategy that envisions running its equipment on synthetic biofuels one day. It also acquired energy storage integrator Greensmith and has been active in storage projects as another form of flexible power.

Similarly, GWP expects to be able to convert the engines to run on biogas, renewable natural gas or even hydrogen, depending on the commercial maturation of those fuels. In the meantime, 18.5-megawatt units give the utility more precision to meet peaks than firing up much larger turbines. And if it’s possible to reduce the number of engines and still meet reliability needs, Zurn said he’s happy to do that.

The city council gave preliminary approval for the new batch of contracts. Now, GWP has to finalize the contracts and conduct a new round of environmental review. The company is working toward earning final approval next spring, which would allow demolition at Grayson to start next summer.

With Grayson’s original repowering off the table, viable new gas plant proposals appear to be extinct in California.

Calpine in May abandoned its Mission Rock peaker on the Santa Clara River, and local opposition scuttled NRG’s Puente Plant, which would have occupied the beach at Oxnard. Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti canceled the renovation of three gas plants in his city’s municipal utility territory, committing to entirely clean energy instead.

 

Another California City Drops Gas Peaker in Favor of Clean Portfolio, by Julian Spector, Greentech Media, July 30, 2019.