California regulators have focused on short-term solutions for the next wildfire season, using last week's decision to speed up the development of microgrids in the last year as an attempt to increase reliability and mitigate energy security concerns during Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. Utilities have increasingly triggered widespread power shutoffs during conditions of high wind and high heat to reduce wildfire risk.
At the same time, regulators prioritized a pathway to ensure microgrids are contributing to the state's clean energy goals in the recent decision.
The interim approach to getting the backup generation needed for the next wildfire season and PSPS events, requires utilities to consult local air regulators to include lower emissions alternative fuels in their microgrids, like hydrotreated vegetable oil, in the next year, with a subsequent shift to clean generation. The Microgrid Incentive Program is also intended to be used for testing new technology to ensure grid reliability.
"[T]he Decision addresses resiliency to keep customers energized for the upcoming 2021 fire season, including a transition plan to clean back-up generation for 2022 and beyond," Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma said in a statement.
As battery storage capacity is added in California, battery storage developers are preparing to meet the summer peak demand through new projects, including microgrids.
"We've been in this 'just-in-time' procurement cycle" for energy storage in the state, Alex Morris, executive director at the California Energy Storage Alliance, said ahead of the CPUC decision.