California speeds up energy transition to face immediate energy crisis and long-term climate goals

Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on email
Email
Rendering of a large-scale battery storage project proposed for construction in California’s Morro Bay. Image: Vistra Energy.

California’s government has issued a roadmap for the US state to achieve its long-term goal of 100% clean energy, while an immediate State of Emergency has been declared over concerns the electric system will struggle under heat waves this summer.

Energy storage, renewables and demand response are at the heart of measures to address both. The long-term roadmap also recognises the important role long-duration energy storage will play in California’s clean energy future, putting it as one of five pillars the state’s energy system will rely on in decarbonising while delivering reliable and secure service.

Governor Gavin Newsom issued the proclamation of a State of Emergency last week, stating that it is “necessary to take immediate action to reduce the strain on the energy infrastructure, increase energy capacity, and make energy supply more resilient this year to protect the health and safety of Californians”.

The state’s residents are being put into the frontline of the climate crisis, with droughts in 50 counties, wildfires, heat waves, floods, mudslides and more affecting them directly. Hydroelectric power plants have lost nearly 1,000MW of generation capacity through droughts. Record-breaking heat waves are causing strain on the electric grid, the massive Bootleg wildfire in Oregon has reduced the amount of electricity that can be delivered by an interconnector into California by nearly 4,000MW and transmission lines in high fire threat areas within the state are vulnerable.

The state could face an energy shortfall of up to 3,500MW this summer and 5,000MW by the summer of 2022. While Newsom’s proclamation acknowledged that there is insufficient time to install enough capacity of renewables and energy storage this summer, it set out some actions that will be taken immediately such as incentivising lower energy demand from industrial customers of utility companies, as well as measures to expedite clean energy projects to give California a better opportunity to meet its 2022 challenges head-on.

The state’s regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California Energy Commission and grid operator CAISO are requested to work with load serving entities to accelerate the “construction, procurement and rapid deployment of new clean energy and storage projects to mitigate the risk of capacity shortages and increase the availability of carbon-free energy at all times of day”.

Many of the other provisions concern rules around the use of temporary and standby generation solutions, limiting the use of fossil fuels where possible, rules on how to respond to CAISO grid emergencies and incentivise demand response by large energy users. It does also however seek to expedite the development of battery storage systems of 20MW or more that can discharge for at least two hours and deliver peak energy to the grid before the end of October 2022. Some permitting and licensing requirements will effectively be waived.

CAISO has previously said the rapid rise in solar and battery storage installations it is seeing, particularly of four-hour batteries that can help meet evening peaks, will contribute to meeting the drastic energy shortfall, but may not be enough, at least for this year. Another recent step that has been taken was a ruling on Mid-Term Reliability by the CPUC, covering the period from 2024 to 2026, which ordered the procurement of 11.5GW of clean energy, including a world-first drive to procure 1,000MW of long-duration storage for the grid.

California’s Electricity System of the Future: Roadmap sets out how to achieve long-term goals

As the title implies, California’s Electricity System of the Future report that was also published a few days ago creates a roadmap to the state attaining its goal of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2045 or earlier.

With it, Newsom and his administration have “signaled strong leadership,” Julia Prochnik, executive director of the Long Duration Energy Storage Association of California (LDESAC) told Energy-Storage.news.

“This bold pathway, which includes long-duration energy storage (LDES) as a key pillar for meeting our reliability and clean energy goals, also focuses heavily on equity, affordability and resiliency,” Prochnik said.

Investment in the energy system is underpinned by the California Comeback Plan (SB 129), legislation which was unveiled in mid-July and committed US$100 billion to an economic recovery package. This included harnessing a budget surplus to helping pandemic-hit families and businesses, as well as US$3.9 billion for clean energy and US$3.7 billion for measures to address climate impacts like sea level rise, extreme heat and environmental justice for low-income and disadvantaged communities.

The full report, which can be found here on the California government website, highlights again the problems and challenges, including the ongoing practice of Public Power Safety Shutoffs (PSPS) by investor-owned utilities, which mean thousands of Californians' electricity is cut off by their suppliers to avoid the risk of ageing transmission infrastructure igniting wildfires.

The good news is that despite the obvious immediate and long-term challenges of decarbonising and boosting the reliability of the electricity system, California is ranked top for solar, geothermal and biomass renewable energy generation in the US, is the national energy storage leader with almost 50GW under development and has banned investment in new coal generation and has begun phasing out natural gas.

California is on the right trajectory to 100% clean energy, but to continue on that pathway, it will have to strengthen what the roadmap describes as five pillars of the electricity system:

  1. Grid hardening and resiliency 
  2. Resource diversity 
  3. Energy storage
  4. Electrification 
  5. Grid modernisation and distributed energy resources

According to a report produced to support SB 100 — California’s landmark 2018 policy committing to total decarbonisation — between 136GW and 208GW of clean energy technologies need to be deployed by 2045 to achieve the goal. Solar, wind and battery storage deployment rates need to increase rapidly: solar and wind threefold and battery storage by about eight times over. The state needs to harness all of its available resources to facilitate those resources to be planned, sited and developed, the roadmap said.

Solar PV is, and will continue to be, foundational to the energy transition, with about 15GW of utility-scale solar installed in California and 10GW of distributed solar to date. There is the capacity to develop about 109GW of further solar resources within the state. The addition of battery storage resources will be key to integrating this solar onto the grid and dispatching it during peak times when most needed, without having to fall back onto natural gas generation to fill the gaps.

Advancements in energy storage technologies and cost reduction make it increasingly viable for the storage of variable renewable energy and to enable the phaseout of gas. Categorising energy storage as “short-duration,”, “long-duration” and “hydrogen,” California’s government argues that diversity of energy storage technologies is important to a reliable grid.

Each has an important role to play, and the roadmap emphasises roles that can be played by pumped hydro storage, lithium-ion batteries and a diverse range of long-duration technologies as well as hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel as well as for electric power.

Short-duration storage, dominated by lithium-ion batteries and often in hybrid resource configurations that pair directly with solar PV, will form the bulk of deployments in the near-term. However, as Julia Prochnik said, the roadmap views long-duration as a vital component of delivering clean energy around the clock. The layering of longer and shorter duration technologies will enable everything from power applications like operating reserves, frequency response and system inertia as well as energy applications like storing large amounts of excess renewable energy and providing system capacity.

The roadmap acknowledges that a range of storage technologies, from mechanical and thermal storage to flow batteries and hydrogen could all be applicable and that commercialising longer duration storage technologies is key to achieving that 100% clean energy target.

“As noted in the roadmap, LDES provides a multitude of ways to store and discharge energy. Additionally, LDES can also provide ancillary services and benefits that include load flowing, operating reserves, frequency response, system inertia, capacity, and additional resiliency services,” Julia Procnik of LDESAC said.

“LDES projects are needed throughout California to ensure local and statewide needs are met and harmful emissions and criteria pollutants are reduced, to promote the health benefits for all community members.”

Read Next

September 28, 2021
US residential solar company Sunnova and distributed energy resource (DER) controls platform provider AutoGrid will aggregate home battery energy storage systems to provide demand response for California energy supplier Clean Power Alliance (CPA). 
September 27, 2021
A Tesla battery energy storage system (BESS) pilot project has gone into service at what is currently the world’s biggest single-site solar PV plant, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
September 27, 2021
The impact of high gas prices in the UK has emphasised the need to invest in energy storage technologies, national industry trade group the Electricity Storage Network (ESN), has said.
September 24, 2021
An order for 8.5MWh of iron electrolyte flow battery energy storage systems (ESS) has been received by US manufacturer ESS Inc from Enel Green Power’s Spanish arm. 
September 24, 2021
Four flow battery manufacturing research and development (R&D) projects will each receive a share of US$17.9 million funding from the US Department of Energy (DoE).

Most Popular

Email Newsletter