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Commissioner Blog: A Step Toward the Electric Sector of the Future

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By Commissioner Liane M. Randolph

I am proud to announce that my Commissioner colleagues and I took action today in a 5-0 vote that points the way toward California's low-carbon future. In our Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) decision, we set out the optimal 2030 portfolio of supply- and demand-side resources needed to achieve our state's ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets within the electric sector.  Under Senate Bill (SB) 350, the portfolio also must ensure reliable electricity at lowest cost to ratepayers.

For the past two years, our first-ever IRP process engaged more than 180 parties to develop the benchmark portfolio, which today we approved as the Preferred System Portfolio for California. 

The portfolio contains approximately 12,000 megawatts of new solar, wind, battery storage, and geothermal resources that California will need by 2030. These are not hard procurement targets for the load-serving entities, but they do point to the scale of what we need to procure, and they indicate the attributes of resources that we need to achieve the emissions, reliability, and cost goals.

What's more, this portfolio lies along a straight line to supplying 100 percent of electric retail sales by eligible renewables and zero-carbon resources by 2045, as set out in SB 100.

But we did not arrive at our benchmark portfolio easily, and we have much work to do as we launch our next IRP cycle:

  •  The proliferation of Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) during this first cycle meant that many entities were in startup phase while preparing their IRPs.  Many CCAs have since stated that they will be prepared to present more concrete IRP portfolios in the second cycle, to clearly and concretely show their contributions and progress toward our statewide mandates.
  • Many voices in the IRP addressed the status of California's natural gas fleet.  The gas-fired plants operating in California are performing essential reliability services today, and are integrating renewable resources.  As I have noted in the Resource Adequacy context, we need these plants during our transition toward a low-carbon future. The question, of course, is how we manage that transition.  This cycle of IRP gave us a first look at our need for the natural gas fleet. In the next cycle, we will study the pathway for the economic retirement of natural gas resources and their replacement with reliable, low-carbon resources.
  • I asked load-serving entities to discuss the impact of the resources that they use on disadvantaged communities. Unfortunately, 19 entities didn't do so, and so they will refile that portion of their plans.  But the larger point remains important: all entities that serve customers in California, including utilities, Electric Service Providers, and Community Choice Aggregators, presently use natural gas-fired plants to provide reliable electricity to their customers. This is true even if the plant is not located in the area where the entity's customers live.  And those plants have an impact on the air quality of the people who live close to them.  I plan to continue asking load-serving entities to consider those impacts as the IRP cycle begins again.
  • In parallel with our planning activities for the next IRP cycle, we will launch a procurement track for IRP in 2019 to consider how the portfolio adopted today will be implemented. In that track, the CPUC will evaluate the need for different resources, make procurement determinations, and provide guidance to load-serving entities by the end of this year.

I look forward to launching our next IRP process, engaging with stakeholders, and continuing our progress toward California's pathbreaking and low-carbon future.

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