The CPUC’s Staff Proposal on Track 2 of the microgrid proceeding was very disappointing. The Commission failed to propose requirements for microgrids to include a diverse portfolio of energy and storage sources, to transition to renewable fuels and cleaner technologies, to require long-duration energy storage, or to move beyond pilot scale programs. BAC’s comments on the Staff Proposal urge the Commission to include bioenergy and other forms of baseload and flexible generation power and to add requirements for long-duration storage (which biogas and biomethane can provide), to move away from fossil fuels, and to expand the program beyond pilot projects.
The CPUC is required by state law to adopt a microgrid tariff and other policies to support microgrid development. The CPUC recently adopted a decision implementing several short-term actions that are intended to expand the use of microgrids during the 2020 wildfire season. The Commission also just issued a Staff Proposal on Track 2 of the proceeding, which addresses the need for a statewide microgrid tariff, expanded use of micrgrids to maintain power for essential services and other issues.
BAC submitted comments in support of the Proposed Decision on BioMAT, which is a 250 megawatt program required by state law (SB 1122, Rubio, 2012). Most importantly, the Proposed Decision will extend the program end date to the end of 2025. BAC also supports the Proposed Decision to increase flexibility for developers, set deadlines for utility’s, and to convert to a statewide program in recognition of the statewide benefits that BioMAT projects provide.
The CPUC voted 5-0 to extend the BioMAT program and make several critical changes to the program. The CPUC’s Decision extends the program end date to the end of 2025. This is critical since the utilities have only procured about 20 percent of the 250 megawatts required by the program. The CPUC Decision also increases delivery flexibility for project developers, establishes deadlines for utilities to review project eligibility and approve contracts, and establishes a non-bypassable charge so that all rate-payers will share the costs of the program. The CPUC proposed the non-bypassable charge in recognition of the fact that BioMAT projects provide important statewide benefits that all ratepayers should help to pay for, not just the purchasing utility’s customers.
See CPUC’s Proposed Decision on BioMAT (July 24, 2020), which was adopted by the Commission on August 28.
The CPUC voted unanimously to re-authorize the Electricity Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program for another ten years. EPIC has provided about $165 million per year for the past decade to a variety of clean energy research, development, deployment, and market facilitation projects. Many small-scale bioenergy projects have received EPIC funding to demonstrate new technologies, better quantify greenhouse gas reductions and other environmental benefits, improve pollution controls, and more. In the past, the California Energy Commission has administered 80% of the EPIC funds and the utilities have administered the other 20%. The CPUC’s Proposed Decision only re-authorizes the 80% of funding administered by the Energy Commission. It will consider what the major funding categories should be and whether to re-authorize the utilties’ portion of funding in the next phase of the proceeding.
See CPUC’s Proposed Decision on EPIC Reauthorization, which was adopted on August 28.
The CPUC has launched a proceeding to consider whether to re-authorize the $165 million per year Electricity Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. The program was created by the CPUC in 2012 to replace the Public Goods Charge. The California Energy Commission and electric utilities administer the program, which is focused on clean energy R&D, technology demonstration and deployment, and market facilitation. EPIC funding has helped accelerate development of next generation bioenergy projects, using cleaner and more efficient technologies and producing beneficial byproducts like biochar. EPIC funding has also helped to better quantify and reduce emissions from bioenergy facilities to continue to increase the benefits and minimize impacts.
At the Air Board’s April hearing, Air Board staff provided an overview of the next Climate Change Scoping Plan update, including the timeline to develop the plan and some major new areas it will include. The Scoping Plan provides the framework for achieving California’s climate goals. Air Board staff proposed several new focus areas for the next Scoping Plan that are directly related to bioenergy, including:
- Consideration of a renewable gas procurement requirement
- A plan for achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century
- Incorporating Natural and Working Lands into the Scoping Plan
BAC filed comments on the CPUC’s BioMAT Staff Proposal to support the proposal and request clarification of several items. The most important changes recommended in the Staff Proposal would:
- Extend the end date to the end of 2025
- Increase operational flexibility and revise burdensome penalty provisions
- Make the program a statewide program
BAC supported these changes and requested that they apply to existing BioMAT contracts. BAC also asked for clarification on the proposed greenhouse gas modeling. And BAC has asked the CPUC to remove the utility service territory restriction as part of the move to make the BioMAT a statewide program.
In early March, the CPUC released a revised Staff Proposal on the BioMAT program. The Staff Proposal contains 15 separate and significant proposals to revise the BioMAT program. Generally, the proposals are quite helpful and some – extending the program end date – are absolutely critical. The most significant recommendations in the Staff Proposal would:
- Extend the BioMAT program end date from December 31, 2020 to December 31, 2025;
- Make the program statewide, allowing other purchasers of BioMAT power, instead of limiting it to the three investor-owned utilities;
- Provide greater operational flexibility and reduce some of the excessive penalty provisions;
- Extend the time allowed for projects to begin commercial operation;
- Set deadlines for utilities to execute contracts; and
- Require projects to provide lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions analyses
BAC’s comments on the CPUC Staff Proposal on Microgrids focus on the need to include bioenergy and biogas in microgrids. Relying on solar and batteries alone limits the duration that microgrids can operate. Bioenergy can extend the duration of microgrids and make them much more reliable by providing a fuel source for backup generators, flexible generation that can fill in around solar and batteries, energy storage, and other grid services.