Low-Carbon Grid

CEERT’s Low-Carbon Grid Program promotes the integration of large amounts of renewable energy on the grid by tracking and intervening in crucial proceedings at the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and other agencies. We also seek to foster joint operating agreements between the CAISO and the state’s municipal and investor-owned utilities, and promote coordination and consolidation of the Balancing Areas in our state and region as a low-cost means of integrating renewable power. The issues are often highly technical, but have enormous impact on the price of renewable energy projects and their access to the transmission and distribution system.

Recent Developments:


Western Grid Integration

Although discussions on integrating the PacifiCorp transmission systems into the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) have halted, there is still a need to increase collaboration in the West for a more efficient grid that will enable decarbonization. CEERT has been working with stakeholders on incremental steps to increase regional coordination and build trust between Western entities.

CEERT Executive Director V. John White and Grid Policy Director Liz Anthony have continued to collaborate with the “Fix the Grid” campaign to develop strategies for cost-effective decarbonization of the Western Interconnection, and to educate stakeholders on key issues. Fix the Grid’s efforts are currently focused on communicating the evolving challenges of operating the grid without enhanced regional coordination, encouraging regional entities to work together on new power market products, and building momentum and consensus among stakeholders for a low-carbon regional grid operator.

Grid Modernization and Reform

While the wet winter has eased the drought crisis in California, it has also resulted in a “high hydro” year, with power from the state’s hydroelectric system well above normal. This, in conjunction with more installed solar and lack of progress on grid reform, has led to an acceleration of the “duck curve”: overgeneration and curtailment of renewables during the day, followed by a steep ramp to the evening peak. These developments have been an opportunity to pinpoint grid policy and operational issues that will inhibit cost-effective decarbonization. We hope to push a series of concrete “reforms,” both small and large, as soon as possible.

Senior Technical Consultant Jim Caldwell and Grid Policy Director Liz Anthony have been working with colleagues from around the West to explore these issues and draft solutions that will bring about a more efficiently operated grid with high levels of renewable energy.

One identified issue is the ability of non-thermal resources to be contracted and utilized as “flexible resources.” Currently, qualifications are designed around the attributes of natural gas plants, which has led to reliance on “long-start” gas resources that must run all day, causing more renewables to be curtailed at midday. It has also led to a lack of alignment between the resources that are contracted and compensated to provide flexible capacity and those that are utilized in the wholesale energy market. This results in poor price signals and incentivizing investments in gas infrastructure rather than zero-GHG electric resources and infrastructure that are more consistent with long-term decarbonization needs.

The team is advocating for changes to “flexible resource” qualifications that would enable clean re-sources to be used based on their capabilities, and allow greater coordination with neighboring balancing authorities. CEERT is formally working on this issue at the CAISO Flexible Resource Adequacy Criteria and Must Offer Obligation (FRACMOO) stakeholder process and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Resource Adequacy proceeding. Some movement at both venues will be required for success.

Discussions with the Governor’s Office

V. John White met with Saúl Gómez, Deputy Cabinet Secretary, and with Alice Reynolds, Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor. Discussion topics included near-term opportunities to implement CAISO reform and improve grid coordination within California and with neighboring states; the need for transparent real-time GHG accounting; the availability of preferred, non-gas resources to meet local capacity reuirements in the Moorpark Area as an alternative to building the controversial Puente gas-fired power plant in Oxnard; and necessary California Public Utilities Commission actions to ensure a zero-GHG replacement strategy for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.