SB 1339 (Stern 2018) requires the California Public Utilities Commission to adopt a measures to accelerate the development of microgrids to ensure reliable electricity supplies during Public Safety Power Shutoffs and other grid disturbances. Microgrids are especially important to keep the power on for emergency and essential services. The CPUC Staff Proposal for short-term actions that can help microgrids before the 2020 fire season focuses very narrowly on microgrids powered by solar and batteries, which are not sufficient for long-duration outages and will not be effective under all circumstances.
Lawrence Livermore National Labs has just released a groundbreaking report on how California can reach carbon neutrality by mid-century. The report finds that reaching carbon neutrality is feasible with existing technologies, but only if California invests much more in carbon negative actions that can offset the carbon emissions that can’t be eliminated. The report highlights several areas where carbon negative emissions are achievable and quite cost-effective: Bioenergy, biochar and other forms of carbon sequestration, restoring natural and working lands, and carbon capture and storage. Of these, the report concludes that bioenergy will provide the greatest share of carbon negative emissions by mid-century, and at a small fraction of the cost of carbon reductions under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard or Cap & Trade programs.
BAC submitted comments in late October on the CPUC’s Order Instituting Rulemaking. BAC urged the Commission to address the need for baseload and flexible generation, to consider opportunities to convert local organic waste to local energy supplies, to include renewable gas for microgrid reliability, to consider the importance of Short-Lived Climate Pollutant reductions, and to consider other upstream benefits like wildfire mitigation and landfill reduction. BAC’s comments are on BAC’s website.
The CPUC is expected to issue the Scoping Ruling in early 2020 and to complete the development of the microgrid framework by the end of 2020.
In September, the CPUC launched a new proceeding to develop a policy framework for microgrids. Microgrids are defined areas of the grid that can operate as part of the larger grid and can also be completely disconnected from (operate independently from) the larger electricity grid. Microgrids include the energy producers, transmission and distribution lines, and energy end users that are within a defined electricity boundary. The goal of establishing microgrids is to enable communities to have a fully independent grid that can operate even when there are disturbances to the regional grid. The recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs have underscored the urgency of developing microgrids, especially for essential services like firefighters and police, hospitals, wastewater treatment, communications, and more.
The CPUC launched the new proceeding to develop the framework for commercializing microgrids. It will consider the appropriate standards, eligible technologies, rates, tariffs and other issues for microgrid development in California.
See the CPUC’s Order Instituting this new Rulemaking: OIR on Microgrids Rulemaking (R.19-09-009)
State agencies released an updated strategy to reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants in November 2016. The updated draft is focused on strategies to reduce methane emissions and human-caused black carbon emissions. Although SB 605 (Lara, 2014) requires a comprehensive strategy to address all major sources of SLCP’s, the current draft omitted any strategy to reduce black carbon from wildfire, which is the single largest source of SLCP’s. BAC’s Comments on the updated draft urge the state to restore sections on black carbon from wildfire, which had been included in earlier drafts, as required by SB 605. The Comments also urge the state to allocate a higher share of Cap & Trade revenues to SLCP reduction and to identify important research needs for SLCP reduction.
See the Opinion Piece in Biomass Monitor on “Forest Biomass Utilization Combatting Catastrophic Wildfires,” written by Julia Levin of BAC and Tad Mason of TSS Consultants. The piece explains that catastrophic wildfires are not natural or good for California forests, emit huge quantities of black carbon and other pollutants and threaten California water supplies. Forest fuel treatment and use of that biomass to produce energy can help restore healthy, more resilient forests and cut pollution from wildfires and fossil fuel power generation.
The California Department of Forests and Fire (CalFire) now estimates that there are more than 66 million dead trees in the Southern Sierras alone, with many additional dead trees throughout California. According to CalFire, the number of dead trees has increased from 3.3 million in 2014 to 29 million in 2015 and now more than 66 million in just six counties. The huge increase in tree mortality is due to a combination of drought, climate change and bark beetles. The Governor’s Emergency Proclamation on Tree Mortality calls for removal of dead and dying trees in High Hazard Zones and conversion to bioenergy and other beneficial uses. To learn more, see CalFire’s news release.