The CPUC has embarked on a momentous path toward modernizing the state’s electric grid from one based on industrial age technology to one based on the technology of the information age.
On June 25, 2010, the CPUC adopted a decision by Commissioner Nancy E. Ryan that sets out a framework and an overall vision for a Smart Grid in California and requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to begin the transformation of the electric grid into a safer, more reliable, efficient, affordable, and interoperable system.
A Smart Grid is characterized by the ability to use real-time information to anticipate, detect, and respond to system problems. One example of new technology being deployed for smarter grid operations is measurements that are taken every two or four seconds, offering an almost continuous view into the power system. That real-time updating of the transmission system allows the grid to respond instantly to outages by scheduling electricity around constrained or downed areas across the grid, limiting the size and scope of outages. Real-time operations can also ease congestion and bottlenecks and reduce line losses (where electricity is “lost” due to heat and other factors), all of which result in savings to consumers by transporting electricity more efficiently.
To ensure that the state’s utilities follow a common outline in preparing their Smart Grid deployment plans, the CPUC has provided a roadmap of issues the utilities must address in their plans in order to bring the best results at the lowest possible cost to consumers, including security, privacy, and cost considerations.
The California legislature and Governor have enshrined the importance of modernizing the state’s electric grid through the enactment of Senate Bill 17 (Padilla), signed into law on October 11, 2009.
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The CPUC has approved new temporary experimental rates for plug-in electric vehicles for San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) customers as part of the utility’s Pricing and Technology Study.
The Study will be performed by SDG&E, in collaboration with ECOtality, Inc. and Nissan. The experimental rate schedules will begin January 1, 2011, and will remain in effect until November 30, 2012 (or until the completion of the Study). ECOtality was the recipient of a U.S. Department of Energy stimulus grant to fund the deployment of electric vehicles and charging systems in five U.S. cities, including San Diego.
Through the ECOtality project, the first 1,000 purchasers of Nissan LEAF electric vehicles in San Diego will receive free home charging equipment. Each Nissan car owner will also become a participant in SDG&E’s Pricing and Technology Study. The objective of the Study is to benefit California’s understanding of how electric vehicles interact with the electric grid. The Study’s working hypothesis is that greater variations in time-varying pricing, together with the use of accommodative vehicle technology, will shift more charging activity to off-peak periods.
In 2009, Senate Bill 626 (Kehoe D-San Diego) directed the CPUC to evaluate
policies to develop infrastructure sufficient to overcome any barriers to the widespread deployment and use of plug-in and electric vehicles, and to adopt rules by July 1, 2011, on specified matters, including infrastructure upgrades necessary for the widespread use of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, amongst other topics.
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The CPUC’s quarterly renewable energy progress report to the state Legislature shows that in the first quarter of 2010, the state’s utilities submitted 37 renewable contracts for CPUC approval, more than the number of contracts the CPUC approves in an entire year, on average.
According to the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) Quarterly Report for the 2nd Quarter 2010, the utilities are contracting with renewable projects at an unprecedented rate. The utilities (Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric Company) are requesting approval of more than 50 contracts before the end of the year, which is twice as much as the utilities have requested in prior years. More than a dozen of these projects are requesting American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.
In 2009, the state’s utilities collectively served 15.4 percent of their electricity with renewable energy, up from 13 percent in 2008. This increase is due to a number of factors, including newly installed renewable capacity; small hydroelectric facilities generating more power; more contracts with existing facilities; and customers using less electricity in 2009 than in 2008, so the utilities’ renewable procurement accounted for a greater percentage of retail sales. Based on the contracts signed to date, the utilities are expected to be at about 18 percent in 2010 and 21 percent in 2011.
The RPS program was established in 2002 under Senate Bill 1078 (Sher) and modified in 2006 under Senate Bill 107 (Simitian). It requires utilities, energy service providers, and community choice aggregators operating in California to obtain 20 percent of their retail sales from renewable energy sources by 2010. On November 17, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-14-08, which established a 33 percent by 2020 RPS goal.
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