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Sunrise brief: California approves electric microgrid program for vulnerable communities

By District Energy posted 03-23-2021 11:48


pv magazine


The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved a microgrid plan for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to support local governments and tribes and provide resiliency in the event of utility outages.

One-time matching funds of up to $27 million annually for 2021 and 2022 are available to defray the cost of special facilities or distribution system upgrades. The program reserves one-third of total budget, or $9 million a year, for disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, with an opportunity to increase this reserved amount if needed.

Microgrid systems are capped 20 at MW to account for the typical maximum capacity for a 21 kV distribution circuit. The utility told regulators that facilities larger than 20 MW would need to be connected to a substation bus or transmission line. It said that was a more complex and expensive undertaking and outside of the program’s target scope and funding.

A June 2020 PUC decision required large electric investor-owned utilities to speed up deployment of microgrids and resiliency projects to minimize the impacts of power outages, including utility Public Safety Power Shut-off events.

Local and tribal governments developing community microgrids serving multiple critical facilities located in outage-prone areas are eligible for the program. PG&E will provide technical support, including project scoping, project design guidance, and a dedicated project management office.

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