Our electricity system is designed around central station, dispatchable (i.e. they turn on at the flip of a switch) generators. Transitioning to a system that is principally powered by renewable energy, many of which have variable production profiles, will require changes.
Some changes will be physical–transmission, for example. Others will be in grid operations–redesigning protocols to maximize efficient usage of all the integration tools available, from demand response to compensated curtailment. Some changes are best categorized as market redesign. And finally, some will be technological–commercializing helpful new technologies, from smart grid software to telemetry and monitoring devices. If you like challenges, well, you are in luck. It’s a good time to be alive.
Energy storage is an issue that covers all these categories. As the California Public Utilities Commission points out, ”California’s energy markets are currently operated under the premise that energy cannot be stored in a practical, cost-effective manner.” Yet, the challenge of integrating 33% renewable energy (and more!) will be helped by the commercialization and usage of energy storage. How do we get from here to there? The CPUC has opened a docket to examine that question, and Vote Solar is a party. Order instituting rulemaking is here. Our initial filing is here. Reply comments here (pdf). All filings can be found here.
In order to achieve deep levels of grid penetration of renewables–the levels necessary to be successful in the fight against climate change–we are going to have to make wholesale changes to grid operations. Our goal is to reform grid operations to maximize renewable usage and benefit. Call it the Heliocentric Reform Initiative. And to that end, this is just one of ~eight proceedings that VSI engaged in to get us there.
Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream.