On Wednesday, the Senate Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee held an oversight hearing on electrical reliability in California.  The agenda can be found here and background materials are here.

Over the last several years, California has seen a dramatic decline in energy reliability.  Rural communities have faced several years of public safety power shutoffs (PSPS) – particularly in high wildfire risk areas.  Urban areas experienced rolling blackouts because the state lacks the energy resource mix necessary to meet peak summer demand.  Drought conditions have further reduced the amount of hydroelectric power available.  These conditions prompted the Governor to declare a state of emergency.  Under that emergency declaration, the Governor has directed state agencies to rapidly deploy clean energy and energy storage projects and to lift restrictions on the use of backup generators.  

At the hearing, the Public Utilities Commission reviewed the PSPS, microgrid, and communications resiliency-related actions it has taken over the last year.  The Energy Commission and California Independent System Operator also discussed actions they are taking to help better prepare the grid for extreme heat events.

John Kennedy, Legislative Advocate for RCRC, testified at the hearing acknowledging the tremendous work done by the CPUC over the last two years, but noting that much more work remains.  RCRC also noted that with the state shifting us toward electric vehicles and fleets, energy reliability and resiliency are even more important.  This is especially true in rural areas where the distances involved are greater and opportunities for recharging are few and far between.  

RCRC stressed that the state must focus on utility improvements to reduce wildfire risk while also reducing the size, scope, frequency, and duration of PSPS events.  Additionally, RCRC noted that electrical system reliability and resiliency is key for fighting and responding to wildfires and other emergencies.  Microgrids and energy storage systems can help, and some types of energy storage projects (like pumped storage) are ideally suited to enhance firefighting capabilities in rural areas.  RCRC urged the state to make great strides to reduce enormous barriers that local governments face in pursuing those projects, including the costs and delays associated with interconnection to the grid.

For more information, please contact John Kennedy by email or by phone at 661-805-2697.