The recent, massive Aliso Canyon natural gas leak led directly to the shutdown of the regionally important facility. In order to deal with the energy shortfall accompanying that shutdown (and stave off potential blackouts next summer), the state is reportedly pursuing a number of different strategies — including an energy storage buildout, demand response programs, and possibly new solar energy projects as well.
With that in mind, the California Public Utilities Commission recently moved to approve a decision allowing the utility company Southern California Edison to put $8.7 million more into demand response programs intended specifically to deal with the Aliso Canyon leak fallout. The investment is reportedly to be part of a broader push that makes use of energy efficiency measures, and improved coordination between utility companies and the state grid operator CAISO, amongst other things.
As a reminder here before going on, the Aliso Canyon leak has interrupted gas supply to local power plants that supply “up to 70% of the power needs for some 11 million people in the Los Angeles basin.” A report published a few months back warned that there could be up to 14 days worth of blackouts next summer if effective actions aren’t taken.
The recent approval ruling will allow Southern California Edison to expand its demand response actions notably. Greentech Media provides the details:
- CPUC will allow SCE to spend $2.8 million in current 2016 funding and $3.2 million of additional 2017 funding for its Summer Discount Plan, which signs up customers willing to have their air conditioning interrupted during peak events. SCE wants to sign up about 1 million residential and commercial customers this year and 1.6 million residential and commercial customers in 2017, and the CPUC has ordered the utility to target marketing in the Los Angeles Basin region affected by Aliso Canyon’s shutdown.
- SCE won’t end its Peak Time Rebate program, but will continue it through the end of this year to avoid losing additional load reduction capacity. It will also revive its Demand Bidding Program and continue its Base Interruptible Program and Agricultural Pumping Interruptible programs, with additional budgeting adding up to less than $1 million.
- SCE will also receive an additional $1.65 million to provide a $75 rebate to 28,000 customers who purchase programmable communicating thermostats (PCTs) and enroll in SCE’s PTR Direct Load Control program.
- Finally, the CPUC authorized $3 million for SCE’s plan for a custom demand response auction mechanism (DRAM). The DRAM is a pilot program that has only just gotten underway this year, with the state’s big three utilities taking bids for more than 40 megawatts to start this summer. But SCE’s custom DRAM is expected to be exclusively focused on the areas affected by the Aliso Canyon shutdown. While the details of how that will work haven’t been set yet, SCE is under the gun to get a plan in place that stakeholders can agree on — the CPUC has set a deadline of July 15 for SCE’s advice letter laying out its plan and a mid-August deadline for opening bids.
On a related note, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has been arguing for a number of pro-solar measures that could potentially help address the shortfall. These include: requesting that the CPUC keep SCE’s Solar Photovoltaic Program up and running; that the CPUC expand solar water heating incentives; that SCE be ordered to revamp its interconnection rules so as to allow new projects to come online faster; and that the cap on SCE’s Option R rate-schedule for commercial and industrial customers with solar energy projects be lifted.
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